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Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. 









Amesbury, 1th Mo. llth, 1837, 
My Dear Friend, — In attempting to comply 
with thy request to give my views on the Pro- 
vince of Woman, I feel that I am venturing on 
nearly untrodden ground, and that I shall ad- 
vance arguments in opposition to a corrupt 
public opinion, and to the perverted interpreta- 
tion of Holy Writ, which has so universally 
obtained. But I am in search of truth; and 
no obstacle shall prevent my prosecuting that 
search, because I believe the welfare of the 
world will be materially advanced by every 
new discovery we make of the designs of Je- 
hovah in the creation of woman. It is impos- 
sible that we can answer the purpose of our 
being, unless we understand that purpose. It 
is impossible that we should fulfil our duties, 
unless we comprehend them ; or live up to 
our privileges, unless we know what they are. 


In examining this important subject, I shall 
depend solely on the Bible to designate the 
sphere of woman, because I believe almost 
every thing that has been written on this 
subject, has been the result of a misconception 
of the simple truths revealed in the Scriptures, 
in consequence of the false translation of man)'" 
passages of Holy Writ. My mind is entirely 
delivered from the superstitious reverence 
which is attached to the English version of the 
Bible J King James's translators certainly were 
not inspired. I therefore claim the original as 
my standard, believing that to have been inspir- 
ed, and I also claim to judge for myself what 
is the meaning of the inspired writers, because 
I believe it to be the solemn duty of every in- 
dividual to search the Scriptures for themselves, 
with the aid of the Holy Spirit, and not be 
governed by the views of any man, or set of 

We must first view woman at the period of 
her creation. ' And God said, Let us make 
man in our own image, after our likeness ; 
and let them have dominion over the fish of 
the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over 
the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every 
creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 
So God created man in his own image, in the 
image of God created he him, male and female 
created he them.' In all this sublime descrip- 
tion of the creation of man, (which is a generic 
term including man and woman,) there is not 
one particle of difference intimated as existing 
between them. They were both made in the 
image of God ; dominion was given to both 
over every other creature, but not over each 
other. Created in perfect equality, they were 

expected to exercise the vicegerence intrusted 
to them by their Maker, in harmony and love. 
Let us pass on now to the recapitulation of 
the creation of man : — ' The Lord God formed 
man of the dust of the ground, and breathed 
into his nostrils the breath of life ; and man 
became a living soul. And the Lord God said, 
it is not good that man should be alone, I will 
make him an help meet for him.' All creation 
swarmed with animated beings capable of nat- 
ural affection, as we know they still are ; it 
was not, therefore, merely to give man a crea- 
ture susceptible of loving, obeying, and looking 
up to him, for all that the animals could do 
and did do. It was to give him a companion, 
in all respects his equal ; one who was like him- 
self a free agent, gifted with intellect and en- 
dowed with immortality ; not a partaker merely 
of his animal gratifications, but able to enter 
into all his feelings as a moral and responsible 
being. If this had not been the case, how 
could she have been an help meet for him ? I 
understand this as applying not only to the 
parties entering into the marriage contract, 
but to all men and women, because I believe 
God designed woman to be an help meet for 
man in every good and perfect work. She 
was a. part of himself, as if Jehovah designed 
to make the oneness and identity of man and 
woman perfect and complete ; and when the 
glorious work of their creation was finished, 
' the morning stars sang together, and all the 
sons of God shouted for joy.' 

This blissful condition was not long enjoy- 
ed by our first parents. Eve, it would seem 
from the history, was wandering alone amid 
the bowers of Paradise, when the serpent 


met with her. From her reply to Satan, it is 
evident that the command not to eat ' of the 
tree that is in the midst of the garden,' was 
given to both, although the term man was used 
when the prohibition was issued by God. 
* And the woman said unto the serpent, we may 
eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but 
of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of 
the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of 
it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'. Here 
the woman was exposed to temptation from a 
being with whom she was unacquainted. She 
had been accustomed to associate with her be- 
loved partner, and to hold communion with God 
and with angels; but of satanic intelligence, 
she was in all probability entirely ignorant. 
Through the subtlety of the serpent, she was 
beguiled. And ' when she saw that the tree 
was good for food, and that it was pleasant to 
the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one 
wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat.' 
We next find Adam involved in the same 
sin, not through the instrumentality of a super- 
natural agent, but through that of his equal, a 
being whom he must have known was liable to 
transgress the divine command, because he 
must have felt that he was himself a free agent, 
and that he was restrained from disobedience 
only by the exercise of faith and love towards 
his Creator. Had Adam tenderly reproved his 
wife, and endeavored to lead her to repentance 
instead of sharing in her guilt, I should be 
much more ready to accord to man that superi- 

[ority which he claims ; but as the facts stand 
disclosed by the sacred historian, it appears to 
me that to say the least, there was as much 
weakness exhibited by Adam as by Eve. 

They both fell from innocence, and consequently 
from happiness, but not from equality. 

Let us next examine the conduct of this fall- 
en pair, when Jehovah interrogated them re- 
specting their fault. Thy both frankly confess- 
ed their guilt. ; The man said, the woman 
whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me 
of the tree and I did eat. And the woman said, 
the serpent beguiled me and I did eat.' And 
the Lord God said unto the woman, ' Thou 
wilt be subject unto thy husband, and he will 
rule over thee.' That this did not allude to 
the subjection of woman to man is manifest, 
because the same mode of expression is used 
in speaking to Cain of Abel. The truth is 
that the curse, as it is termed, which was pro- 
nounced by Jehovah upon woman, is a simple 
prophecy. The Hebrew, like the French lan- 
guage, uses the same word to express shall and 
will. Our translators having been accustomed 
to exercise lordship over their wives, and see- 
ing only through the medium of a perverted 
judgment, very naturally, though I think not 
very learnedly or very kindly, translated it 
shall instead of will, and thus converted a pre- 
diction to Eve into a command to Adam ; for 
observe, it is addressed to the woman and not to 
the man. The consequence of the fall was an 
immediate struggle for dominion, and Jehovah 
foretold which would gain the ascendency; but 
as he created them in his image, as that image 
manifestly was not lost by the fall, because it is 
urged in Gen. 9:6, as an argument why the 
life of man should not be taken by his fellow 
man, there is no reason to suppose that sin pro- 
duced any distinction between them as moral, 
intellectual and responsible beings. Man might 


just as well have endeavored by hard labor to 
fulfil the prophecy, thorns and thistles will the 
earth bring forth to thee, as to pretend to ac- 
complish the other, ' he will rule over thee,' by 
asserting dominion over his wife. 

' Authority usurped from God, not given. 
He gave him only over beast, flesh, flowl, 
Dominion absolute: that right he holds 
By God's donation: but man o'er woman 
He made not Lord, such title to himself 
Reserving, human left from human free.' 

Here then I plant myself. God created us 
equal ; — he created us free agents ; — he is our 
Lawgiver, our King and our Judge, and to him 
alone is woman bound to be in subjection, and 
to him alone is she accountable for the use of 
those talents with which her Heavenly Father 
has entrusted her. One is her Master even 

Thine for the oppressed in the bonds of wo- 
man hood, Sarah M. Grimke. 



Newburyport, 7th mo. 17, 1837. 
My dear Sister, — In my last, I traced the 
creation and the fall of man and woman from 
that state of purity and happiness which their 
beneficent Creator designed them to enjoy. As 
they were one in transgression, their chastise- 
ment was the same. ' So God drove out the 
man, and he placed at the East of the garden 
of Eden a cherubim and a flaming sword, which 
turned every way to keep the way of the tree 
of life.' We now behold them expelled from 
Paradise, fallen from their original loveliness, but 
still bearing on their foreheads the image and 
superscription of Jehovah ; still invested with 
high moral responsibilites, intellectual powers, 
and immortal souls. They had incurred the 
penalty of sin, they were shorn of their inno- 
cence, but they stood on the same .platform side 
by side, acknowledging no superior but their 
God. Notwithstanding what has been urged, 
woman I am aware stands charged to the pre- 
sent day with having brought sin into the world. 
I shall not repel the charge by any counter 
assertions, although, as was before hinted, Ad- 
am's ready acquiescence with his wife's propo- 


sal, does not savor much of that superiority in 
strength of mind, which is arrogated by man. 
Even admitting that Eve was the greater sin- 
ner, it seems to me man might be satisfied with 
the dominion he has claimed and exercised for 
nearly six thousand years, and that more true 
nobility would be manifested by endeavoring to 
raise the fallen and invigorate the weak, than 
by keeping woman in subjection. But I ask 
no favors for my sex. I surrender not our 
claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is, 
that they will take their feet from off our necks, 
and permit us to stand upright on that ground 
which God designed us to occupy. If he has 
not given us the rights which have, as I con- 
ceive, been wrested from us, we shall soon give 
evidence of our inferiority, and shrink back 
into that obscurity, which the high souled mag- 
nanimity of man has assigned us as our appro- 
priate sphere. 

As I am unable to learn from sacred writ 
when woman was deprived by God of her 
equality with man, I shall touch upon a few 
points in the Scriptures, which demonstrate that 
no supremacy was granted to man. When 
God had destroyed the world, except Noah and 
his family, by the deluge, he renewed the grant 
formerly made to man, and again gave him do- 
minion over every beast of the earth, every 
fowl of the air, over all that moveth upon the 
earth, and over all the fishes of the sea; into his 
hands they were delivered. But was woman, 
bearing the image of her God, placed under 
the dominion of her fellow man ? Never ! Je- 
hovah could not surrender his authority to gov- 
ern his own immortal creatures into the hands 
of a being, whom he knew, and whom his 


whole history proved, to he unworthy of a trust 
so sacred and important. God could not do it, 
because it is a direct contravention of his law, 
* Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him 
only shalt thou serve.' If Jehovah had appoint- 
ed man as the guardian, or teacher of woman, 
he would certainly have given some intimation 
of this surrender of his own prerogative. But 
so far from it, we find the commands of God 
invariably the same to man and woman ; and 
not the slightest intimation is given in a single 
passage of the Bible, that God designed to 
point woman to man as her instructor. The 
tenor of his language always is, ' Look unto 
ME, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, 
for I am God, and there is none else.' 

The lust of dominion was probably the first 
effect of the fall; and as there was no other 
intelligent being over whom to exercise it, wo- 
man was the first victim of this unhallowed pas- 
sion. We afterwards see it exhibited by Cain 
in the murder of his brother, by Nimrod in his 
becoming a mighty hunter of men, and setting 
up a kingdom over which to reign. Here we 
see the origin of that Upas of slavery, which 
sprang up immediately after the fall, and has 
spread its pestilential branches over the whole 
face of the known world. All history attests 
that man has subjected woman to his will, used 
her as a means to promote his selfish gratifica- 
tion, to minister to his sensual pleasures, to be 
instrumental in promoting his comfort; but 
never has he desired to elevate her to that rank j 
she was created to fill. He has done all he 
could to debase and enslave her mind; and 
now he looks triumphantly on the ruin he has 
wrought, and says, the being he has thus deeply 
injuied is his inferior. 


Woman has been placed by John Quincy 
Adams, side by side with the slave, whilst he 
was contending for the right side of petition. 
I thank him for ranking us with the oppressed ; 
for I shall not find it difficult to show, that in 
all ages and countries, not even excepting en- 
lightened republican America, woman has more 
or less been made a means to promote the wel- 
fare of man, without due regard to her own 
happiness, and the glory of God as the end of 
her creation. 

During the patriarchal ages, we find men 
and women engaged in the same employments. 
Abraham and Sarah both assisted in preparing 
the food which was to be set before the three 
men, who visited them in the plains ofMamre; 
but although their occupations were similar, 
Sarah was not permitted to enjoy the society of 
the holy visitant ; and as we learn from Peter, 
that she ' obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord,' 
we may presume he exercised dominion over 
her. We shall pass on now to Eebecca. In 
her history, we find another striking illustration 
of the low estimation in which woman was 
held. Eleazur is sent to seek a wife for Isaac. 
He finds Rebecca going down to the well to fill 
her pitcher. He accosts her ; and she replies 
with all humility, ' Drink, my lord.' How does 
he endeavor to gain her favor and confidence? 
Does he approach her as a dignified creature, 
whom he was about to invite to fill an impor- 
tant station in his master's family, as the wife 
of his only son? No. He offered incense to 
her vanity, and ' he took a golden ear-ring of 
half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her 
hands of ten shekels weight of golo\' and ga^e 
them to Rebecca.. 


The cupidity of man soon led him to regard 
woman as property, and hence we find them 
sold to those, who wished to marry them, as 
far as appears, without any regard to those sa- 
cred rights which belong to woman, as well as 
to man in the choice of a companion. That 
women were a profitable kind of property, we 
may gather from the description of a virtuous 
woman int he last chapter of Proverbs. To work 
willingly with her hands, to open her hands to 
the poor, to clothe herself with silk and pur- 
ple, to look well to her household, to make fine 
linen and sell it, to deliver girdles to the mer- 
chant, and not to eat the bread of idleness, 
seems to have constituted in the view of Solo-, 
mon, the perfection of a woman's character and 
achievements. • The spirit of that age was not 
favorable to intellectual improvement ; but as 
there were wise men who formed exceptions to 
the general ignorance, and were destined to 
guide the world into more advanced states, so 
there was a corresponding proportion of wise 
women ; and among the Jews, as well as other 
nations, we find a strong tendency to believe 
that women were in more immediate connection 
with heaven than men.' — L. M. Child's Con. 
of Woman. If there be any truth in this tra- 
dition, I am at a loss to imagine in what the 
superiority of man consists. 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Geimke. 



Haverhill, 7th Mo. 1837. 

Dear Friend, — When I last addressed thee, 
I had not seen the Pastoral Letter of the Gen- 
eral Association. It has since fallen into my 
hands, and I must digress from my intention of 
exhibiting the condition of women in different 
parts of the world, in order to make some re- 
marks on this extraordinary document. I am 
persuaded that when the minds of men and 
women become emancipated from the thraldom 
of superstition and ' traditions of men,' the sen- 
timents contained in the Pastoral Letter will be 
recurred to with as much astonishment as the 
opinions of Cotton Mather and other distin- 
guished men of his day, on the subject of witch- 
craft ; nor will it be deemed less wonderful, 
that a body of divines should gravely assemble 
and endeavor to prove that woman has no right 
to ' open her mouth for the dumb,' than it now 
is that judges should have sat on the trials of 
witches, and solemnly condemned nineteen per- 
sons ^nd one dog to death for witchcraft. 

"But to the letter. It says, * We invite your 


attention to the dangers which at present seem 
to threaten the FEMALE CHARACTER with 
wide-spread and permanent injury.' I rejoice 
that they have called the attention of my sex to 
this subject, because I believe if woman inves- 
tigates it, she will soon discover that danger is 
impending, though from a totally different 
source from that which the Association appre- 
hends, — danger from those who, having long 
held the reins of usurped authority, are unwill- 
ing to permit us to fill that sphere which God 
created us to move in, and who have entered 
into league to crush the immortal mind ci wo- 
man. I rejoice, because I am persuaded that 
the rights of woman, like the rights of slaves, 
need only be examined to be understood and 
asserted, even by some of those, who are now 
endeavoring to smother the irrepressible desire 
for mental and spiritual freedom which glows 
in the breast of many, who hardly dare to speak 
their sentiments. 

' The appropriate duties and influence of wo- 
men are clearly stated in the #ew Testament. 
Those duties are unobtrusive and private, but 
the sources of mighty power, When the mild, 
dependent, softening influence of woman upon 
the sternness of man's o^nions is fully exer- 
cised, society feels the effects of it in a thousand 
ways.' No one can desire more earnestly than 
I do, that woman nuy move exactly in the 
sphere which her Creator has assigned her ; 
and I believe her Jiaving been displaced from 
that sphere has introduced confusion into the 
world. It is, therefore, of vast importance to 
herself and to all the rational creation, that she 
should ascertain what are her duties and her 
privileges as a responsible and immortal being. 


The New Testament has been referred to, and 
I am willing to abide by its decisions, but must 
enter my protest against the false translation of 
some passages by the men who did that work, 
and against the perverted interpretation by the 
men who undertook to write commentaries 
thereon. I am inclined to think, when we are 
admitted to the honor of studying Greek and 
Hebrew, we shall produce some various read- 
ings of the Bible a little different from those we 
now have. 

Tta Lord Jesus defines the duties of his 
followers in his Sermon on the Mount. He 
lays down grand principles by which they should 
be governed, without any reference to sex or 
condition: — 'Ye are the light of the world. A 
city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither 
do men ligiit a candle and put it under a bushel, 
but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto 
all that are in the house. Let your light so 
shine before m?n, that they may see your good 
works, and glorify your Father which is in 
Heaven.' I follow him through all his precepts, 
and find him giviag the same directions to wo- 
men as to men, ne\er even referring to the dis- 
tinction now so strenuously insisted upon be- 
tween masculine and feminine virtues : this is 
one of the a nti -christian ' traditions of men' 
which are taught instead of the ' command- 
ments of God.' Men and women were cre- 
ated equal ; they are botn moral and accoun- 
table beings, and whatever it right for man to 
do, is right for woman. 

But the influence of woman, aays the Asso- 
ciation, is to be private and unobtrusive ; her 
light is not to shine before man like that of her 
brethren ; but she is passively to let the lords 


of the creation, as they call themselves, put the 
bushel over it,. lest peradventure it might appear 
that the world has been benefitted by the rays 
of her candle. So that her quenched light, ac- 
cording to their judgment, will be of more use 
than if it w r ere set on the candlestick. \ Her 
influence is the source of mighty power.' This 
has ever been the flattering language of man 
since he laid aside the whip as a means to keep 
woman in subjection. He spares her body ; but 
the war he has waged against her mind, her 
heartland her soul, has been no less destructive 
to her as a moral being. How monstrous, how 
anti-christian, is the doctrine that woman is to 
be dependent on man ! Where, in all the sacred 
Scriptures, is this taught ? Alas ! she has too 
well learned the lesson which man has labored 
to teach her. She has surrendered her dearest 
rights, and been satisfied with the privileges 
which man has assumed to grant her; she 
has been amused with the show of power, whilst 
man has absorbed all the reality into himself. 
He has adorned the creature whom God gave 
him as a companion, with baubles and gewgaws, 
turned her attention to personal attractions, 
offered incense to her vanity, and made her the 
instrument of his selfish gratification, a play- 
thing to please his eye and amuse his hours of 
leisure. ' Rule by obedience and by submission 
sway,' or in other words, study to be a hypo- 
crite, pretend to submit, but gain your point, 
has been the code of household morality which 
woman has been taught. The poet has sung, 
in sickly strains, the loveliness of woman's de- 
pendence upon man, and now we find it re- 
echoed by those who profess to teach the relig- 
ion of the Bible. God says, ' Cease ye from 


man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein 
is he to be accounted of?' Man says, depend 
upon me. God says, ' HE will teach us of his 
ways.' Man says, believe it not, I am to be 
your teacher. This doctrine of dependence 
upon man is utterly at variance with the doc- 
trine of the Bible. In that book I find nothing 
like the softness of Woman, nor the sternness of 
man : both are equally commanded to bring 
forth the fruits of the Spirit, love, meekness, 
gentleness, &c. 

But we are told, 'the power of woman is in 
her dependence, flowing from a consciousness 
of that weakness which God has given her for 
her protection.' If physical weakness is allu- 
ded to, I cheerfully concede the superiority ; if 
brute force is what my brethren are claiming, I 
am willing to let them have all the honor they 
desire ; but if they mean to intimate, that men- 
tal or moral weakness belongs to woman, more 
than to man, I utterly disclaim the charge. Our 
powers of mind have been crushed, as far as 
man could do it, our sense of morality has 
been impaired by his interpretation of our du- 
ties ; but no where does God say that he made 
any distinction between us, as moral and intel- 
ligent beings. 

'We appreciate,' say the Association, 'the 
unostentatious prayers and efforts of woman in 
advancing the cause of religion at home and 
abroad, in leading religious inquirers to the 
pastor for instruction.' Several points here 
demand attention. If public prayers and public 
efforts are necessarily ostentatious, then ' Anna 
the prophetess, (or preacher,) who departed not 
from the temple, but served God with fastings 
and prayers night and day,' 'and spake of 


Christ to all them that looked for redemption in 
Israel,' was ostentatious in her efforts. Then, 
the apostle Paul encourages women to be osten- 
tatious in their efforts to spread the gospel, 
when he gives them directions how they should 
appear, when engaged in praying, or preaching 
in the public assemblies. Then, the whole as- 
sociation of Congregational ministers are osten- 
tatious, in the efforts they are making in preach- 
ing and praying to convert souls. 

But woman may be permitted to lead relig- 
ious inquirers to the pastors for instruction. 
Now this is assuming that all pastors are better 
qualified to give instruction than woman. This 
I utterly deny. I have suffered too keenly from 
the teaching of man, to lead any one to him for 
instruction. The Lord Jesus says, — ' Come 
unto me and learn of me.' He points his fol- 
lowers to no man ; and when woman is made 
the favored instrument of rousing a sinner to 
his lost and helpless condition, she has no right 
to substitute any teacher for Christ ; all she has 
to do is, to turn the contrite inquirer to the 
' Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of 
the world.' More souls have probably been 
lost by going down to Egypt for help, and by 
trusting in man in the early stages of religious 
experience, than by any other error. Instead of 
the petition being offered to God, — ' Lead me 
in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art the 
God of my salvation,' — instead of relying on the 
precious promises — f What man is he that fear- 
eth the Lord ? him shall he teach in the way 
that he shall choose' — ' I will instruct thee and 
teach thee in the way which thou shalt go — I 
will guide thee with mine eye' — the young 
convert is directed to go to man, as if he were 


in the place of God, and his instructions essen- 
tial to an advancement in the path of righteous- 
ness. That woman can have but a poor con- 
ception of the privilege of being taught of God, 
what he alone can teach, who would turn the 
* religious inquirer aside' from the fountain of 
living waters, where he might slake his thirst 
for spiritual instruction, to those broken cisterns 
which can hold no water, and therefore cannot 
satisfy the panting spirit. The business of men 
and women, who are ordained of God to 
preach the unsearchable riches of Christ' to a 
lost and perishing world, is to lead souls to 
Christ, and not to Pastors for instruction. 

The General Association say, that 'when 
woman assumes the place and tone of man as 
a public reformer, our care and protection of 
her seem unnecessary ; we put ourselves in 
self-defence against her, and her character be- 
comes unnatural.' Here again the unscriptural 
notion is held up, that there is a distinction be- 
tween the duties of men and women as moral 
beings ; that what is virtue in man, is vice in 
woman ; and women who dare to obey the 
command of Jehovah, ' Cry aloud, spare not, 
lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my 
people their transgression,' are threatened with 
having the protection of the brethren withdrawn. 
If this is all they do, we shall not even know 
the time when our chastisement is inflicted ; our 
trust is in the Lord Jehovah, and in him is ever- 
lasting strength. The motto of woman, when 
she is engaged in the great work of public re- 
formation should be, — ' The Lord is my light 
and my salvation ; whom shall I fear ? The 
Lord is the strength of my life ; of whom shall 
I be afraid?' She must feel, if she feels rightly, 


that* she is fulfilling one of the important duties 
laid upon her as an accountable being, and that 
her character, instead of being ' unnatural,' is 
in exact accordance with the will of Him to 
whom, and to no other, she is responsible for 
the talents and the gifts confided to her. As to 
the pretty simile, introduced into the ' Pastoral 
Lerter,' ' If the vine whose strength and beauty 
is to lean upon the trellis work, and half conceal 
its clusters, thinks to assume the independence 
and the overshadowing nature of the elm,' &c. 
I shall only remark that it might well suit the 
poet's fancy, who sings of sparkling eyes and 
coral lips, and knights in armor clad ; but it 
seems to me utterly inconsistent with the dig- 
nity of a Christian body, to endeavor to draw 
such an anti-scriptural distinction between men 
and women. Ah ! how many of my sex feel in 
the dominion, thus unrighteously exercised over 
them, under the gentle appellation of protection^ 
that what they have leaned upon has proved a 
broken reed at best, and oft a spear. 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



Andover, 7th Mo. 27th, 1837. 

My Dear Friend, — Before I proceed with 
the account of that oppression which woman 
has suffered in every age and country from her 
protector, man, permit me to offer for your con- 
sideration, some views relative to the social in- 
tercourse of the sexes. Nearly the whole of 
this intercourse is, in my apprehension, derog- 
atory to man and woman, as moral and intel- 
lectual beings. We approach each other, and 
mingle with each other, under the constant pres- 
sure of a feeling that we are of different sexes; 
and, instead of regarding each other only in the 
light of immortal creatures, the mind is fetter- 
ed, by the idea which is early and industriously 
infused into it, that we must never forget the 
distinction between male and female. Hence 
our intercourse, instead of being elevated and 
refined, is generally calculated to excite and 
keep alive the lowest propensities of our nature. 
Nothing, I believe, has tended more to destroy 
the true dignity of woman, than the fact that 
she is approached by man in the character of a 
female. The idea that she is sought as an in- 
telligent and heaven-born creature, whose so- 


ciety will cheer, refine and elevate her compan- 
ion, and that she will receive the same blessings 
she confers, is rarely held up to her view. On 
the contrary, man" almost always addresses 
himself to the weakness of woman. By flat- 
tery, by an appeal to her passions, he seeks 
access to her heart ; and when he has gain- 
ed her affections, he uses her as the instrument 
of his pleasure — the minister of his temporal 
comfort. He furnishes himself with a house- 
keeper, whose chief business is in the kitchen, 
or the nursery. And whilst he goes abroad 
and enjoys the means of improvement afforded 
by collision of intellect with cultivated minds, 
his wife is condemned to draw nearly all her 
instruction from books, if she has time to pe- 
ruse them ; and if not, from her meditations, 
whilst engaged in those domestic duties, which 
are necessary for the comfort of her lord and 

Surely no one who contemplates, with the 
eye of a Christian philosopher, the design of 
God in the creation of woman, can believe that 
she is now fulfilling that design. The literal 
translation of the word { help-meet ' is a help- 
er like unto himself; it is so rendered in the 
Septuagint, and manifestly signifies a compan- 
ion. Now I believe it will be impossible for 
woman to fill the station assigned her by God, 
until her brethren mingle with her as an equal, 
as a moral being ; and lose, in the dignity of 
her immortal nature, and in the fact of her bear- 
ing like himself the image and superscription 
of her God, the idea of her being a female. 
The apostle beautifully remarks, ' As many of 
you as have been baptized into Christ, have put 
on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, 


there is neither bond nor free, there is neither 
male nor female ; for ye are all one in Christ 
Jesus.' Until our intercourse is purified by 
the forgetfulness of sex, — until we rise above 
the present low and sordid views which entwine 
themselves around our social and domestic inter- 
change of sentiment and feelings, we never can 
derive that benefit from each other's society 
which it is the design of our Creator that we 
should. Man has inflicted an unspeakable in- 
jury upon woman, by holding up to her view 
her animal nature, and placing in the back 
ground her moral and intellectual being. Wo- 
man has inflicted an injury upon herself by 
submitting to be thus regarded ; and she is now 
called upon to rise from the station where man, 
not God, has placed her, and claim those sacred 
and inalienable rights, as a moral and respon- 
sible being, with which her Creator has invest- 
ed her. 

What but these views, so derogatory to the 
character of woman, could ■ have called forth 
the remark contained in the Pastoral Letter ? 
' We especially deplore the intimate acquaint- 
ance and promiscuous conversation of females 
with regard to things " which ought not to be 
named," by which that modesty and delicacy, 
which is the charm of domestic life, and which 
constitutes the true influence of woman, is con- 
sumed.' How wonderful that the conceptions 
of man relative to woman are so low, that he 
cannot perceive that she may converse on any 
subject connected with the improvement of her 
species, without swerving in the least from that 
modesty which is one of her greatest virtues ! 
Is it designed to insinuate that woman should 
possess a greater degree of modesty than man ? 


This idea I utterly reprobate. Or is it suppos- 
ed that woman cannot go into scenes of misery, 
the necessary result of those very things, which 
the Pastoral Letter says ought not to be named, 
for the purpose of moral reform, without be- 
coming contaminated by those with whom she 
thus mingles ? 

This is a false position ; and I presume has 
grown out of the never-forgotten distinction of 
male and female. C The woman who goes forth, 
clad in the panoply of God, to stem the tide of 
iniquity and misery, which she beholds rolling 
through our land, goes not forth to her labor of 
love as a female. She goes as the dignified 
messenger of Jehevah, and all she does and 
says must be done and said irrespective of sex. 
She is in duty bound to communicate with all, 
who are able and willing to aid her in saving 
her fellow creatures, both men and women, from 
that destruction which awaits them. 

So far from woman losing any thing of the 
purity of her mind, by visiting the wretched 
victims of vice in their miserable abodes, by 
talking with them, or of them, she becomes 
more and more elevated and refined in her feel- 
ings and views., While laboring to cleanse the 
minds of others from the malaria of moral pol- 
lution, her own heart becomes purified, and her 
soul rises to nearer communion with her God. 
Such a woman is infinitely better qualified to-^ 
fulfil the duties of a wife and a mother, than the \ 
woman whose false delicacy leads her to shun \ 
her fallen sister and brother, and shrink from 
naming those sins which she knows exist, but 
which she is too fastidious to labor by deed and / 
by word to exterminate. Such a woman feels*/ 
when she enters - upon the marriage relation, 


that God designed that relation not to debase 
her to a level with the animal creation, but to 
increase the happiness and dignity of his crea- 
tures. Such a woman comes to the important 
task of training her children in the nurture and 
admonition of the Lord, with a soul filled with 
the greatness of the beings committed to her 
charge. She sees in her children, creatures 
bearing the image of God ; and she approaches 
them with reverence, and treats them at all 
times as moral and accountable beings. Her 
own mind being purified and elevated, she in 
stils into her children that genuine religion 
which induces them to keep the commandments 
of God. Instead of ministering with ceaseless 
care to their sensual appetites, she teaches them 
to be temperate in all things. She can con- 
verse with her children on any subject relating 
to their duty to God, can point their attention to 
those vices which degrade and brutify human 
nature, without in the least defiling her own 
mind or theirs. She views herself, and teach- 
es her children to regard themselves as moral 
beings ; and in all their intercourse with their 
fellow men, to lose the animal nature of man 
and woman, in the recognition of that immortal 
mind wherewith Jehovah has blessed and en- 
liched them. 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



Groton, Qth Mo. 4th, 1837. 

My Dear Sister, — I design to devote this 
letter to a brief examination of the condition of 
women in Asia and Africa. I believe it will be 
found that men, in the exercise of their usurped 
dominion over woman, have almost invariably 
done one of two things. They have either 
made slaves of the creatures whom God design- 
ed to be their companions and their coadjutors 
In every moral and intellectual improvement, or 
they have dressed them like dolls, and used 
them as toys to amuse their hours of recreation. 

I shall commence by stating the degrading 
practice of SELLING WOMEN, which we 
find prevalent in almost all the Eastern nations. 

Among the Jews, — 

* Whoever wished for a wife must pay the parents for her, 
or perform a stipulated period of service; sometimes the 
parties were solemnly betrothed in childhood, a«d the price 
of the bride stipulated. 7 

In Babylon, they had a yearly custom of a 
peculiar kind. 

1 In every district, three men, respectable for their virtue, 
were chosen to conduct all the marriageable girls to the 
public assembly. Here they were put up at auction by the 


public crier, while the magistrate presided over the sales. 
The most beautiful were sold first, and the rich contended 
eagerly for a choice. The most ugly, or deformed girl was 
sold next in succession to the handsomest, and assigned to 
any person who would take her with the least sum of money. 
The price given for the beautiful was divided into dowries 
for the homely.' 

Two things may here be noticed ; first, the 
value set upon personal charms, just as a hand- 
some horse commands a high price ; and sec- 
ond, the utter disregard which is manifested to- 
wards the feelings of woman. 

■ In no part of the world does the condition of women 
appear more dreary than in Hindostan. The arbitrary 
power of a father disposes of them in childhood. When 
they are married, their husbands have despotic control over 
them; i( unable to support them, they can lend or sell them 
to a neighbor, and in the Hindoo rage for gambling, wives 
and children are frequently staked and lost. If they survive 
their husbands, they must pay implicit obedience to the old- 
est son ; if they have no sons, the nearest male relation 
holds them in subjection; and if there happen to be no 
kinsmen, they must be dependent on the chief of the tribe.' 

Even the English, who are numerous in Hin- 
dostan, have traded in women. 

* India has been a great marriage market, on account of 
the emigration of young enterprising Englishmen, without a 
corresponding number of women. Some persons actually 
imported women to the British settlements, in order to sell 
them to rich Europeans, or nabobs, who would give a good 
price for them. How the importers acquired a right thus to 
dispose of them is not mentioned; it is probable that the 
women themselves, from extreme poverty, or some other 
cause, consented to become articles of speculation, upon con- 
sideration of receiving a certain remuneration. In Septem- 
ber, 1818, the following advertisement appeared in the Cal- 
cutta Advertiser : 


Be it known, that six fair pretty young ladies, with two 
sweet engaging children, lately imported from Europe, hav- 
ing the roses of health blooming on their cheeks, and joy 
sparkling in their eyes, possessing amiable tempers and high- 
ly accomplished, whom the most indifferent cannot behold 
without rapture, are to be rallied for next door to the Brit- 
ish gallery.' 


The enemy of all good could not have devis- 
ed a better means of debasing an immortal 
creature, than by turning her into a saleable 
commodity ; and hence we find that wherever 
this custom prevails, woman is regarded as a 
mere machine to answer the purposes of domes- 
tic combat or sensual indulgence, or to gratify 
the taste of her oppressor by a display of per- 
sonal attractions. 

* Weighed in the balance with a tyrant's gold, 
Though nature cast her in a heavenly mould.' 

I shall now take a brief survey of the em- 
ployments of women in Asia and Africa. In 
doing this, I have two objects in view ; first to 
show, that women are capable of acquiring as 
great physical power as men, and secondly to 
show, that they have been more or less the vic- 
tims of oppression and contempt. 

* The occupations of the ancient Jewish women were la- 
borious. They spent their time in spinning and weaving 
cloth for garments, and for the covering of the tents, in 
cooking the food, tending the flocks, grinding the corn, and 
drawing water from the wells.' 

Of Trojan women we know little, but we find 

* Andromache, though a princess and well beloved by her 
husband, fed and took care of the horses of Hector.' 

So in Persia, women of the middling class 
see that proper care is taken of the horses. 
They likewise do all the laborious part of the 
house work. 

«The Hindoo women are engaged in every variety of oc- 
cupation, according to the caste of their husbands. They 
cultivate the land, make baskets and mats, brii water in 
jars, carry manure and various other articles to larket in 


baskets on their heads, cook food, tend children, weave 
cloth, reel thread and wind cocoons.' 

* The Thibetian women of the laboring classes are inured 
to a great deal of toil. They plant, weed, reap, and thresh 
grain, and are exposed to the roughest weather, while their 
indolent husbands are perhaps living at their ease.' 

■ Females of the lower classes among the Chinese endure 
as much labor and fatigue as the men. A wife sometimes 
"drags the plough in rice fields with an infant tied upon her 
back, while her husband performs the less arduous task of 
holding the plough/ 

* The Tartar women in general perform a greater share of 
labor than the men; for it is a prevalent opinion that they 
were sent into the world for no other purpose, but to be use- 
ful and convenient slaves to the stronger sex.' * Among 
some of the Tartar tribes of the present day, females man- 
age a horse, hurl a javelin, hunt wild animals, and fight an 
enemy as well as the men.' 

* In the island of Sumatra, the women do all the work, 
while their husbands lounge in idleness, playing on the flute, 
with wreaths of globe amaranth on their heads, or racing 
with each other, without saddle or stirrup, or hunting deer, 
or gambling away their wives, their children, or themselves. 
The Battas consider their wives and children as slaves, and 
sell them whenever they choose.' 

' The Moors are indolent to excess. They lie whole days 
upon their mats, sleeping and smoking, while the women and 
slaves perform all the labor. Owing to their uncleanly hab- 
its, they are much infested with vermin; and as they con- 
sider it beneath their dignity to remove this annoyance, the 
task is imposed on the women. They are very impatient 
and tyrannical, and for the slightest offence beat their wives 
most cruelly.' 

In looking over the condition of woman as 
delineated in this letter, how amply do we find 
the prophecy of Jehovah to Eve fulfilled, ' Thy 
husband will rule over thee.' And yet w r e per- 
ceive that where the physical strength of woman 
is called into exercise, there is no inferiority 
even in this respect; she performs the labor, 
while man enjoys what are termed the pleasures 
of life. 


I have thought it necessary to adduce various 
proofs of my assertion, that men have always in 
some way regarded women as mere instruments 
of selfish gratification ; and hope this sorrowful 
detail of the wrongs of woman will not be te- 
dious to thee. 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



Groton, 8th Mo. 15th, 1837. 

Dear Friend, — In pursuing the history of 
woman in different ages and countries, it will 
be necessary to exhibit her in all the various 
situations in which she has been placed. 

We findher sometimes filling the throne, and 
exercising the functions of royalty. The name 
of Serniramis is familiar to every reader of an- 
cient history. She succeeded Ninus in the 
government of the Assyrian empire ; and to 
render her name immortal, built the city of Ba- 
bylon. Two millions of men were constantly 
employed upon it. Certain dykes built by 
order of this queen, to defend the city from in- 
undations, are spoken of as admirable. 

Nicotris, wife of Nabonadius, the Evil-Mero- 
dacb of Scripture, was a woman of great en- 
dowments. While her husband indulged in a 
life of ease and pleasure, she managed the 
affairs of state with wisdom and prudence. 

• Zenobia queen of Palmyra and the East, is the most re- 
markable among Asiatic women. Her genius struggled 
with and overcame all the obstacles presented by oriental 
laws and customs. She knew the Latin,, Greek, Syriac, 
and Egyptian languages ; and had drawn up for her own use 
an abridgement of oriental history. She was the companion 


and friend of her husband, and accompanied him on his 
hunting excursions with eagerness and courage equal to his 
own. She despised the effeminacy of a covered carriage, 
and often appeared on horseback in military costume. Some- 
times she marched several miles on foot, at the head of the 
troops. Having revenged the murder of her husband, she 
ascended the throne, and for five years governed Palmyra, 
Syria, and the East, with wonderful steadiness and wis- 

' Previous to the introduction of Mohammedism into Java, 
women often held the highest offices of government ; and 
when the chief of a district dies, it is even how not uncom- 
mon for the widow to retain the authority that belonged to 
her deceased husband.' 

Other instances might be adduced to prove 
that there is no natural inferiority in woman. 
Not that I approve of woman's holding the 
reins of government over man. I maintain 
that they are equal, and that God never invest- 
ed fallen man with unlimited power over his fel- 
low man ; and I rejoice that circumstances have 
prevented woman from being more deeply in- 
volved in the guilt which appears to be insepa- 
rable from political affairs. The few instances 
which I have mentioned prove that intellect is 
not sexed ; and doubtless if woman had not 
almost universally been depressed and degraded, 
the page of history would have exhibited as 
many eminent statesmen and politicians among 
women as men. We are much in the situation 
of the slave. Man has asserted and assumed 
authority over us. He has, by virtue of his 
power, deprived us of the advantages of im- 
provement which he has lavishly bestowed 
upon himself, and then, after having done all 
he can to take from us the means of proving 
our equality, and our capability of mental culti- 
vation, he throws upon us the burden of proof 
that God created man and woman equal, and en- 
dowed them, without any reference to sex, with 


intelligence and responsibilities, as rational and 
accountable beings. Hence inHindostan, even 
women of the higher classes are forbidden to 
read or write ; because the Hindoos think it 
would inevitably spoil them for domestic life, 
and assuredly bring some great misfortune upon 
them. May we not trace to the same feeling, 
the disadvantages under which women labor 
even in this country, for want of an education, 
which would call into exercise the powers of 
her mind, and fortify her soul with those 
great moral principles by which she would be 
qualified to fill every department in social, 
domestic and religious life with dignity? 

In Hindostan, the evidence of women is not 
received in a court of justice. 

In Burmah, their testimony is not deemed 
equal to that of a man, and they are not allowed 
to ascend the steps of a court of justice, but are 
obliged to give their testimony outside of the 

In Siberia, women are not allowed to step 
across the foot-prints of men, or reindeer ; they 
are not allowed to eat with men, or to partake 
of particular dainties. Among many tribes, 
they seem to be regarded as impure, unholy 

' The Mohammedan law forbids pigs, dogs, women and 
other impure animals to enter a mosque; and the hour of 
prayers must not be proclaimed by a female, a madman, a 
drunkard, or a decrepit person.' 

Here I am reminded of the resemblance be- 
tween the situation of women in heathen and 
Mohammedan countries, and our brethren and 
sisters of color in this Christian land, where 


they are despised and cast out as though they 
were unclean. And on precisely the same 
ground, because they are said to be inferior. 

The treatment of women as wives is almost 
uniformly the same in all heathen countries. 

The ancient Lydians are the only exception 
that I have met with, and the origin of their 
peculiar customs is so much obscured by fable, 
that it is difficult to ascertain the truth. Proba- 
bly they arose from some great benefit conferred 
on the state by women. 

Among the Druses who reside in the moun- 
tains of the Anti Libanus, a wife is often di- 
vorced on the slightest pretext. If she ask her 
husband's permission to go out, and he says, — 
1 Go,' without adding ' but come back again,' she 
is divorced. 

In Siberia, it is considered a wife's duty to 
obey the most capricious and unreasonable de- 
mands of her husband, without one word of 
expostulation or inquiry. If her master be 
dissatisfied with the most trifling particular in 
her conduct, he tears the cap or veil from her 
head, and this constitutes a divorce. 

A Persian woman, under the dominion of the 
kindest master, is treated much in the same 
manner as a favorite animal. To vary her 
personal graces for his pleasure, is the sole end 
and aim of her existence. As moral or intel- 
lectual beings, it would be better for them to be 
among the dead than the living. The mother 
instructs her daughter in all the voluptuous co- 
quetry, by which she herself acquired precarious 
ascendency over her absolute master ; but all 
that. is truly estimable in female character is 
utterly neglected. 

Hence we find women extravagantly fond of 


adorning their persons. Regarded as instru- 
ments of pleasure, they have been degraded 
into mere animals, and have found their own 
gratification principally in the indulgence of 
personal vanity, because their external charms 
procured for them, at least a temporary ascen- 
dency over those, who held in their hands the 
reins of government. A few instances must 
suffice, or I shall exceed the limits I have pre- 
scribed to myself in this letter. 

During the magnificent prosperity of Israel, 
marriages were conducted with great pomp ; 
and with the progress of luxury and refinement, 
women became expensive, rather than profitable 
in a pecuniary point of view. Hence probably 
arose the custom of wealthy parents giving a 
handsome dowry with their daughters. On the 
day of the nuptials, the bride was conducted by 
her female relations to the bath, where she was 
anointed with the choicest perfumes, her hair 
perfumed and braided, her eyebrows deepened 
with black powder, and the tips of her fingers 
tinged with rose color. She was then arrayed 
in a marriage robe of brilliant color ; the girdle 
and bracelets were more or less costly. 

Notwithstanding the Chinese women have no 
opportunity to rival each other in the conquest 
of hearts, they are nevertheless very fond of 
ornaments. Bunches of silver or gilt flowers 
are always interspersed among their ringlets, 
and someties they wear the Chinese phoenix 
made of silver gilt. It moves with the slight- 
est motion of the wearer, and the spreading tail 
forms a glittering aigrette on the middle of the 
head, and the wings wave over the front. Yet 
a Chinese ballad says, — The pearls and precious 
stones, the silk and gold with which a coquette 


so studiously bedecks herself, are a transparent 
varnish which makes all her defects the more 

The Moorish women have generally a great 
passion for ornament. They decorate their 
persons with heavy gold ear-rings, necklaces of 
amber, coral and gold ; gold bracelets ; gold 
chains and silver bells for the ankles ; rings on 
the fingers, &c. &c. The poorer class wear 
glass beads around the head, and curl the hair 
in large ringlets. Men are proud of having 
their wives handsomely dressed. 

The Moors are not peculiar in this fancy. 
Christian men still admire women who adorn 
their persons to gratify the lust of the eye and 
the pride of life. Women, says a Brahminical 
expositor, are characterized by an inordinate 
love of jewels, fine clothes, &c. &c. I cannot 
deny this charge, but it is only one among 
many instances, wherein men have reproached 
us with those very faults and vices which their 
own treatment has engendered. Is it any 
matter of surprise that women, when unnat- 
urally deprived of the means of cultivating 
their minds, of objects which would elevate 
and refine their passions and affections, should 
seek gratification in the toys, and the trifles 
which now too generally engage their atten- 
tion ? 

I cannot close this, without acknowledging 
the assistance and information I have derived, 
and shall continue to derive on this part of my fe'L 
subject, from a valuable work entitled * Condi- 
tion of Women, by Lydia M Child.' It is 
worth the perusal of every one who is interest- 
ed in the subject. 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



Brookline, 8th Mo., 22d, 1S37. 

Dear Sister, — I now come to the consider- 
ation of the condition of woman in Europe. — 
In this portion of the world, she does not ap- 
pear to have been as uniformly or as deeply de- 
based, as in Eastern countries ; yet we shall 
find little in her history which can yield us sat- 
isfaction, when we regard the high station she 
was designed to occupy as a moral and intel- 
lectual being. 

In Greece, if we may judge from what Eus- 
tathius says, * women should keep within doors, 
and there talk,' — we may conclude, that in 
general their occupations were chiefly domestic. 
Thucydides also declares, that ' she was the 
best woman, of whom the least was said, either 
of good or of harm.' The heathen philoso- 
phers doubtless wished to keep woman in her 
* appropriate sphere f and we find our clerical 
brethren of the present day re-echoing these 
pagan sentiments, and endeavoring to drive wo- 
man from the field of moral labor and intellect- 
ual culture, to occupy her talents in the pursuit 


of those employments which will enable her to 
regale the palate of her lord with the delica- 
cies of the table, and in every possible way 
minister to his animal comfort and gratification. 
In my humble opinion, woman has long enough 
subserved the interests of man ; and in the 
spirit of self-sacrifice, submitted almost without 
remonstrance to his oppression ; and now that 
her attention is solicited to the subject of her 
rights, her privileges and her duties, I would 
entreat her to double her diligence in the per- 
formance of all her obligations as a wife, a mo- 
ther, a sister, and a daughter. Let us remem- 
ber that our claim to stand on perfect equality 
with our brethren, can only be substantiated by 
a scrupulous attention to our domestic duties, as 
well as by aiding in the great work of moral 
reformation — a work which is now calling for 
the energies and consecrated powers of every 
man and woman who desires to see the Re- 
deemer's kingdom established on earth. That 
man must indeed be narrow minded, and can 
have but a poor conception of the power of 
moral truth on the female heart, who supposes 
that a correct view of her own rights can make 
woman less solicitous to fill up every department 
of duty. If it should have this effect, it must 
be because she has not taken a comprehensive 
view of the whole snbject. 

In the history of Rome, we find a little spot 
of sunshine in the valley where woman has 
been destined to live, unable from her lowly sit- 
uation to take an expansive view of that field 
of moral and mental improvement, which she 
should have been busy in cultivating. 

* In the earliest and best days of Rome, the first magis- 
trates and generals of armies ploughed their own fields, and 


threshed their own grain. Integrity, industry and simplici- 
ty, were the prevailing virtues of the times; and the char- 
acter of woman was, as it always must be, graduated in a 
degree by that of man. Columella says, Roman husbands, 
having completed the labors of the day, entered their houses 
(iva from all care, and there enjoyed perfect repose. There 
reigned union and concord and industry, supported by mu- 
tual affections. The most beautiful woman depended for 
distinction on her economy and endeavors to assist in crown- 
ing her husband's diligence with prosperity. All was in 
common between them; nothing was thought to belong more 
to one than another. The wife by her assiduity and activi- 
ty within doors, equalled and seconded the industry and la- 
bor of her husband.' 

In the then state of the world, we may con- 
clude from this description, that woman enjoy- 
ed as much happiness as was consistent with 
that comparatively unimproved condition of our 
species ; but now a new and vast sphere of use- 
fulness is opened to her, and she is pressed by 
surrounding circumstances to come up to the 
help of the Lord against the giant sins which 
desolate our beloved country. Shall woman 
shrink from duty in this exigency, and retiring 
within her own domestic circle, delight her- 
_self in the abundance of her own selfish enjoy- 
ments. Shall she rejoice in her home, her hus- 
band, her children, and forget her brethren and 
sisters in bondage, who know not what it is to 
call a spot of earth their own, whose hus- 
bands and wives are torn from them by relent- 
less tyrants, and whose children are snatch- 
ed from their arms by their unfeeling task-mas- 
ters, whenever interest, or convenience, tempts 
them to this sacrilegious act ? Shall woman 
disregard the situation of thousands of her fel- 
low creatures, who are the victims of intem- 
perance and licentiousness, and retreating to 
the privacy of her own comfortable home, be 
satisfied that her whole duty is performed, when 


she can exhibit ' her children well clad and 
smiling, and her table neatly spread with whole- 
some provisions V Shall she, because ' her 
house is her home,'' refuse her aid and her sym- 
pathy to the down trodden slave, to the poor 
unhappy outcasts who are deprived of those 
blessings which she so highly prizes ? Did 
God give her those blessings to steel her heart 
to the sufferings of her fellow creatures ? Did 
he grant her the possession of husband and 
children, to dry up the fountains of feeling for 
those who know not the consolations of tender- 
ness and reciprocal affection ? Ah no ! for ev- 
ery such, blessing, God demands a grateful 
heart ; and woman must be recreant to her du- 
ty, if she can quietly sit down in the enjoy- 
ments of her own domestic circle, and not exert 
herself to proeure the same happiness for 

But it is said woman has a mighty weapon 
in secret prayer. She has, I acknowledge, in 
common loith man ; but the woman who prays [ 
in sincerity for the regeneration of this guilty 
world, will accompany her prayers by her la- 
Dors." A friend of mine remarked—' I was sit- 
ting in my chamber, weeping over the miseries 
-of the slave, and putting up my petitions for 
his deliverance from bondage : when in the 
midst of my meditations, it occurred to me that 
my tears, unaided by effort, could never melt 
die chain of the slave. I must be up and do- 
ing.' She is now an active abolitionist — her 
prayers and her works go hand in hand. 

I am here reminded of what a slave once 
said to his master, a Methodist minister. The 
slaveholder inquired, ' How did you like my 


sermon to-day V 'Very good, master, but it 
did not preach me free.' 

Oh, my sisters, suffer me to entreat you to 
assert your privileges, and to perform your du- 
ties as moral beings. Be not dismayed at the 
ridicule of man ; it is a weapon worthy only of 
little minds, and is employed by those who feel 
that they cannot convince our judgment. Be 
not alarmed at contumely, or scorn ; we must 
expect this. I pray that we may meet it 
with forbearance and love ; and that nothing may 
drive us from the performance of our high and 
holy duties. Let us ' cease from man, whose 
breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be 
accounted of?' and press forward in all the great 
moral enterprises of the age r leaning only on 
the arm of our Beloved. 

But I must return to the subject I commenc- 
ed with, viz. the condition of woman in Eu- 

* The northern nations bore a general resemblance to 
each other. War and hunting were considered the only 
honorable occupations for men, and all other employments 
were left to women and slaves. Even the Visigoths, on thes- 
coasts of Spain, left their fields and flocks to the cars of 
women. The people who inhabit the vast extent of coun- 
try between the Black sea and the North sea, are divided: 
into various distinct races. The women are generally very 
industrious; even in their walks, they carry a portable dis- 
taff, and spin every step of the way. Both Croatian and 
Walachian women perform all the agricultural operations ie* 
addition to their own domestie concerns. r 

Speaking of the Morlachian women, M. For- 
tis says, 'Being treated like beasts of burden,, 
and expected to endure submissively every spe- 
cies of hardship, they naturally become very 
dirty and careless in their habits/ 

The Cossack women afford a contrast to this* 
disgusting picture. They are very cleanly and 


industrious, and in the absence of their hus- 
bands, supply their places by taking charge of 
all their usual occupations, in addition to their 
own. It is rare for a Cossack woman not to 
know some trade, such as dyeing cloth, tanning 
leather, &c. 

The condition of Polish and Russian serfs 
in modern times is about the same. The Pol- 
ish women have scarcely clothing enough for 
decency, and they are subjected to great hard- 
ships and privations. * In Russia, women have 
been seen paving the streets, and performing 
other similar drudgery. In Finland, they work 
like beasts of burden, and may be seen for 
hours in snow water, up to the middle, tugging 
at boats and sledges.' 

In Flanders and in France, women are en- 
gaged in performing laborious tasks ; and even 
in England, it is not unusual to see them scrap- 
ing up manure from the streets with their hands., 
and gathering it into baskets. 

In Greece, even now the women plough and 
carry heavy burdens, while the lordly master 
of the family may be seen walking before them 
without anv incumbranced 

* Since the preceding letter were in type. I have met 
■with the •following account in a French work entitled * De 
V education des meres de famille on de la civilization d« 
<5enre Humain par les femmes,' printed at Brussels in 1837- 
*The periodicals have lately published the following circum- 
stance from the journal of a« English physician, who travel- 
led in the East. He visited a slave market, where he saw 
about twenty Greek women half naked, lying on the ground 
waiting for a purchaser. One of them attracted the atten- 
tion of an old Turk. The barbarian examined her should- 
ers, her legs, her ears, hf>r mouth, her neck, with the minu- 
test care, just as a horse is examined, and during the inspec- 
tion, the merchant praised the beauty of her eyes* the -ale- 


Generally speaking, however, there is much 
more comparative equality of labor between 
the sexes in Europe than among the Orientals. 

I shall close this letter with a brief survey of 
the condition of women among the Aborigines 
of America. 

* Before America was settled by Europeans, it was inhab- 
ited by Indian tribes, which greatly resembled each other 
in the treatment of their women. Every thing, except war 
and hunting, was considered beneath the dignity of man. — 
During long and wearisome marches, women were obliged 
to carry children, provisions and hammocks on their shoul- 
ders ; they had the sole care of the horses and dogs, cut 
wood, pitched the tents, raised the corn, and made the cloth- 
ing. When the husband- killed game, he left it by a tree in 
the forest, returned home, and sent his wife several miles- in 
search of it. In most of the tribes, women were not allow- 
ed to eat and drink with men, but stood and served th«in> 
and then ate what they left.' 

The following affecting anecdote may give 
some idea of the sufferings of these women r 

' Father Joseph reproved a female savage for destroying 
her infant daughter. She replied, " I wish my mother had 
thus prevented the manifold sufferings I have endured. Con- 
sider, father, our deplorable situation. Our husbands go ou6 
to hunt; we are dragged along with one infant at our breast,, 
and another in a basket. Though tired with long walking,. 
we are not allowed to sleep when we return, but must labor 
all night in grinding maize and making chica for them. — 
They get drunk and beat us, draw us by the hair o§ the 
head, and tread us under foot. Would to God my mother 
had put me under ground the moment I was born. 7 ' ■ 

gance of her shape, and other perfections ; he protested that 
the poor girl was but thirteen years of age, &c. After a 
severe scrutiny and some dispute about the price, she was 
sold body and soul for 1375 francs. The soul, it is true, was 
accounted of little value in the bargain. The unfortunate 
creature, half fainting in the arms of ber mother, implored 
help in the most touching accents, but it availed nothing — 
This infernal scene passed in Europe in 1829, only 60O 
leagues from Paris and Loudon, the two capitals of the hu- 
man species, and at the time in which I write, it is the 
living history of two thirds of the inhabitants of the earth.* 


In Greenland, the situation of woman is 
equally deplorable. The men hunt bears and 
catch seals ; but when they have towed their 
booty to land, they would consider it a disgrace 
to help the women drag it home, or skin and 
dress it. They often stand and look idly on, 
while their wives are staggering beneath the 
load that almost bends them to the earth. The 
women are cooks, butchers, masons, curriers, 
shoemakers and tailors. They w T ill manage a 
boat in the roughest seas, and will often push 
off from the shore in the midst of a storm, that 
would make the hardiest European sailor trem- 

The page of history teems with woman's 
wrongs, and it is wet with woman's tears. — 
For the* sake of my degraded sex every where, 
and for the sake of my brethren, who suffer 
just in proportion as they place woman lower 
in the scale of creation than man, lower than 
her Creator placed her, I entreat my sisters to 
arise in all the majesty of moral power, in all 
the dignity of immortal beings, and plant them- 
selves, side by side, on the platform of human 
rights, with man, to whom they were designed 
to be companions, equals and helpers in every 
good word and work. 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



Brookline, 1837. 

My dear Sister, — I have now taken a brief 
survey of the condition of woman in various 
parts of the world. I regret that my time has 
been so much occupied by other things, that I 
have been unable to bestow that attention upon 
the subject which it merits, and that my con- 
stant change of place has prevented me from 
having access to books, which might probably 
have assisted me in this part of my work. I 
hope that the principles I have asserted will 
claim the attention of some of my sex, who 
may be able to bring into view, more thorough- 
ly than I have done, the situation and degrada- 
tion of woman. I shall now proceed to make 
a few remarks on the condition of women in 
my own country. 

During the early part of my life, my lot was 
cast among the butterflies of the fashionable 
world ; and of this class of women, I am con- 
strained to say, both from experience and obser- 
vation, that their education is miserably defi- 
cient ; that they are taught to regard marriage 
as the one thing needful, the only avenue to 


distinction ; hence to attract the notice and 
win the attentions of men, by their external 
charms, is the chief business of fashionable 
girls. They seldom think that men will be al- 
lured by intellectual acquirements, because they 
find, that where any mental superiority exists, 
a woman is generally shunned and regarded as 
stepping out of her ' appropriate sphere,' which, 
in their view, is to dress, to dance, to set out to 
the best possible advantage her person, to read 
the novels which inundate the press, and which 
do more to destroy her character as a rational 
creature, than any thing else. Fashionable 
women regard themselves, and are regarded by 
men, as pretty toys or as mere instruments of 
pleasure ; and the vacuity of mind, the heart- 
lessness, the frivolity which is the necessary re- 
sult of this false and debasing estimate of 
women, can only be fully understood by those 
who have mingled in the folly and wickedness 
of fashionable life ; and who have been called 
from such pursuits by the voice of the Lord 
Jesus, inviting their weary and heavy laden souls 
to come unto Him and learn of Him, that they 
may find something worthy of their immortal 
spirit, and their intellectual powers ; that they 
may learn the high and holy purposes of their 
creation, and consecrate themselves unto the ser- 
vice of God ; and not, as is now the case, to the 
pleasure of man. 

There is another and much more numerous 
class in this country, who are withdrawn by 
education or circumstances from the circle of 
fashionable amusements, but who are brought 
up with the dangerous and absurd idea, that 
marriage is a kind of preferment ; and that to 
be able to keep their husband's house, and ren- 


-der his situation comfortable, is the end of her 
being. Much that she does and says and thinks 
is done in reference to this situation ; and to be 
married is too often held up to the view of girls 
as the sine qua non of human happiness and hu- 
man existence. For this purpose more than for 
any other,I verily believe the majority of girls are 
trained. This is demonstrated bythe imperfect ed- 
ucation which is bestowed upon them,and the lit- 
tle pains taken to cultivate their minds, after they 
leave school, by the little time allowed them for 
reading, and by the idea being constantly inculca- 
ted, that although all household concerns should 
be attended to with scrupulous punctuality at 
particular seasons, the improvement of their 
intellectual capacities is only a secondary con- 
sideration, and may serve as an occupation to 
fill up the odds and ends of time. In most 
families, it is considered a matter of far more 
consequence to call a girl off from mak- 
ing a pie, or a pudding, than to interrupt 
her whilst engaged in her studies. This 
mode of training necessarily exalts, in their 
view, the animal above the intellectual and 
spiritual nature, and teaches women to regard 
themselves as a kind of machinery, necessary 
to keep the domestic engine in order, but of lit- 
tle value as the intelligent companions of men. 
Let no one think, from these remarks, that I 
regard a knowledge of housewifery as beneath 
the acquisition of women. Far from it : I be- 
lieve that a complete knowledge of household 
affairs is an indispensable requisite in a woman's 
education, — that by the mistress of a family, 
whether married or single, doing her duty thor- 
oughly and under standingly r , the happiness of 
the family is increased to an incalculable degree, 
os well as a vast amount of time and money 


saved. All I complain of is, that our education 
consists so almost exclusively in culinary and 
other manual operations. I do long to see the 
time, when it will no longer be necessary for 
women to expend so many precious hours in 
furnishing ' a well spread table,' but that their 
husbands will forego some of their accustomed 
indulgences in this way, and encourage their 
wives to devote some portion of their time to 
mental cultivation, even at the expense of hav- 
ing to dine sometimes on baked potatoes, or 
bread and butter. 

I believe the sentiment expressed by the 
author of ' Live and let Live,' is true : 

' Other things being equal, a woman of the highest mental 
endowments will always be the best housekeeper, for do- 
mestic economy, is a science that brings into action the 
qualities of the mind, as well as the .graces of the heart. 
A quick perception, judgment, discrimination, decision and 
order are high attributes of mind, and are all in daily exer- 
cise in the well ordering of a family. If a sensible woman, 
an intellectual woman, a woman of genius, is not a geod 
housewife, it is not because she is either, or all or those, but 
because there is some deficiency in her character, or some 
omission of duty which should make her very humble, in- 
stead of her indulging in any secret self-complacency on ac- 
count of a certain superiority, which onlv aggravates her 

The influence of women over the minds and 
character of children of both sexes, is allowed 
to be far greater than that of men. This being 
the case by the very ordering of nature, women 
should be prepared by education for the per- 
formance of their sacred duties as mothers and 
as sisters. A late American writer,^ speak- 
ing on this subject, says in reference to an arti- 
cle in the Westminster Keview : 

* Thomas S. Grimke. 



c I agree entirely with the writer in the high estimate 
which he places on female education, and have long since 
been satisfied, that the subject not only merits, but imperi- 
ously demands a thorough reconsideration. The whole 
scheme must, in my opinion, be reconstructed. The great 
elements of usefulness and duty are too little attended to. 
Women ought, in my view of the subject, to approach to the 
best education now given to men, (I except mathematics and 
the classics,) far more I believe than has ever yet been at- 
tempted. Give me a host of educated, pious mothers and 
sisters, and I will do more to revolutionize a country, in 
moral and religious taste, in manners and in social virtues 
and intellectual cultivation, than I can possibly do in double 
or treble the time, with a similar host of educated men. I 
cannot but think that the miserable condition of the great 
body of the people in all ancient communities, is to be as- 
/ cribed in a very great degree to the degradation of women.' 

There is another way in which the general 
opinion, that women are inferior to men, is man- 
ifested, that bears with tremendous effect on the 
laboring class, and indeed on almost all who are 
obliged to earn a subsistence, whether it be by- 
mental or physical exertion — I allude to the 
disproportionate value set on the time and labor 
of men and of women. A man who is engaged 
in teaching, can always, I believe, command a 
higher price for tuition than a woman — even 
when he teaches the same branches, and is not 
\j in any respect superior to the woman. This I 
know is the case in boarding and other schools 
with which I have been acquainted, and it is so 
in every occupation in which the sexes engage 
indiscriminately. As for example, in tailoring, 
a man has twice, or three times as much for 
making a waistcoast or pantaloons as a woman, 
although the work done by each may be equal- 
ly good. In those employments which are pe- 
culiar to women, their time is estimated at only 
half the value of that of men. A woman who 
goes out to wash, works as hard in proportion 
as a wood sawyer, or a coal heaver, but she is 


not generally able to make more than half as 
much by a day's work. The low remuneration 
which women receive for their work, has claim- 
ed the attention of a few philanthropists, and I 
hope it will continue to do so until some remedy 
is applied for this enormous evil. I have known 
a widow, left with four or five children, to pro- 
vide for, unable to leave home because her help- 
less babes demand her attention, compelled to 
earn a scanty subsistence, by making coarse 
shirts at 12 1-2 cents a piece, or by taking in 
washing, for which she was paid by some 
wealthy persons 12 1-2 cents per dozen. All 
these things evince the low estimation in which 
woman is held. There is yet another and more 
disastrous consequence arising from this un- 
scriptural notion — women being educated, from 
earliest childhood, to regard themselves as infe- 
rior creatures, have not that self-respect which 
conscious equality would engender, and hence 
when their virtue is assailed, they yield to 
temptation with facility, under the idea that it 
rather exalts than debases them, to be connect- 
ed with a superior being. 

i/ There is another class of women in this coun- 
try, to whom I cannot refer, without feelings of 
the deepest shame and sorrow. I allude to our 
female slaves. Our southern cities are whelmed 
beneath a tide of pollution ; the virtue of female 
slaves is wholly at the mercy of irresponsible 
tyrants, and women are bought and sold in our 
slave markets, to gratify the brutal lust of those 
who bear the name of Christians. In our slave 
States, if amid all her degradation and igno- 
rance, a woman desires to preserve her virtue 
unsullied, she is either bribed or whipped into 
compliance, or if she dares resist her seducer, 


her life by the laws of some of the slave States 
may be, and has actually been sacrificed to the 
fury of disappointed passion. Where such 
laws do not exist, the power which is necessa- 
rily vested in the master over his property, leaves 
the defenceless slave entirely at his mercy, and 
the sufferings of some females on this account, 
both physical and mental, are intense. Mr. 
Gholson, in the House of Delegates of Virginia, 
in 1832, said, ' He really had been under the 
impression that he owned his slaves. He had 
lately purchased four women and ten children, 
in whom he thought he had obtained a great 
bargain ; for he supposed they were his own 
property, as were his brood mares. 1 But even 
if any laws existed iri the United States, as in 
Athens formerly, for the protection of female 
slaves, they would be null and void, because the 
evidence of a colored person is not admitted 
against a white, in any of our Courts of Justice 
in the slave States. ' In Athens, if a female 
slave had cause to complain of any want of re- 
spect to the laws of modesty, she could seek 
the protection of the temple, and demand a 
change of owners ; and such appeals were nev- 
er discountenanced, or neglected by the magis- 
trate.' In Christian America, the slave has no 
refuge from unbridled cruelty and lust. 

S. A. Forrall, speaking of the state of morals 
at the South, says, • Negresses when young and 
likely, are often employed by the planter, or his 
friends, to administer to their sensual desires. 
This frequently is a matter of speculation, for 
if the offspring, a mulatto, be a handsome fe- 
male, 800 or 1000 dollars may be obtained for 
her in the New Orleans market. It is an oc- 
currence of no uncommon nature to see a Chris- 


tian father sell his own daughter, and the broth- 
er his own sister.' The following is copied by 
the N. Y. Evening Star from the Picayune, a 
paper published in New Orleans. ' A very 
beautiful girl, belonging to the estate of John 
French, a deceased gambler at New Orleans, 
was sold a few days since for the round sum of 
$7,000. An ugly-looking bachelor named 
Gouch, a member of the Council of one of the 
Principalities, was the purchaser. The girl is 
a brunette ; remarkable for her beauty and in- 
telligence, and there was considerable conten- 
tion, who should be the purchaser. She was, 
however, persuaded to accept Gouch, he having 
made her princely promises.' I will add but 
one more from the numerous testimonies re- 
specting the degradation of female slaves, and 
the licentiousness of the South. It is from the 
Circular of the Kentucky Union, for the moral 
and religious improvement of the colored race. 
* To the female character among our black pop- 
ulation, we cannot allude but with feelings of 
the bitterest shame. A similar condition of 
moral pollution and utter disregard of a pure 
and virtuous reputation, is to be found only 
without the pale of Christendom. That such 
a state of society should exist in a Christian 
nation, claiming to be the most enlightened 
upon earth, without calling forth any particular 
attention to its existence, though ever before 
our eyes and in our families, is a moral phe- 
nomenon at once unaccountable and disgrace- 
ful.' Nor does the colored woman suffer alone : 
the moral purity of the white woman is deeply 
contaminated. In the daily habit of seeing the 
virtue of her enslaved sister sacrificed without 
hesitancy or remorse, she looks upon the crimes 


of seduction and illicit intercourse without hor- 
ror, and although not personally involved in the 
guilt, she loses that value for innocence in her 
own, as well as the other sex, which is one of 
the strongest safeguards to virtue. She lives 
in. habitual intercourse with men, whom she 
knows to be polluted by licentiousness, and often 
is she compelled to witness in her own domes- 
tic circle, those disgusting and heart-sickening 
jealousies and strifes which disgraced and dis- 
tracted the family of Abraham. In addition to 
all this, the female slaves suffer every species 
of degradation and cruelty, which the most 
wanton barbarity can inflict ; they are indecent- 
ly divested of their clothing, sometimes tied up 
and severely whipped, sometimes prostrated on 
the earth, while their naked bodies are torn by 
the scorpion lash. 

* The whip on woman's shrinking flesh ! 

Our soil yet reddening with the stains 
Caught from her scourging warm and fresh.' 

Can any American woman look at these scenes 
of shocking licentiousness and cruelty, and fold 
her hands in apathy ,and say, ' I have nothing to 
do with slavery ' ? She cannot and be guiltless. 
I cannot close this letter, without saying a 
few words on the benefits to be derived by men, 
as well as women, from the opinions I advocate 
relative to the equality of the sexes. Many 
women are now supported, in idleness and ex- 
travagance, by the industry of their husbands, 
fathers, or brothers, who are compelled to toil 
out their existence, at the counting house, or in 
the printing office, or some other laborious oc- 
cupation, while the wife. and daughters and sis- 
ters take no part in the support of the family, 
and appear to think that their sole business is 


to spend the hard bought earnings of their male 
friends. I deeply regret such a state of things, 
because I believe that if women felt their re- 
sponsibility, for the support of themselves, or 
their families it would add strength and dignity 
to their characters, and teach them more true 
sympathy for their husbands, than is now gen- 
erally manifested, — a sympathy which would be 
exhibited by actions as well as words. Our 
brethren may reject my doctrine, because it 
runs counter to common opinions, and because 
it wounds their pride ; but I believe they would 
be ' partakers of the benefit ' resulting from the 
Equality of the Sexes, and would find that 
woman, as their equal, was unspeakably more 
valuable than woman as their inferior, both as 
a moral and an intellectual being. 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



Brookline, 8th Mo. 25th, 1837. 

My Dear Sister, — It seems necessary to 
glance at the conduct of women under circum- 
stances which place them in juxtaposition with 
men, although I regard it as entirely unimpor- 
tant in proving the moral equality of the sexes ; 
because I condemn, in both, the exercise of that 
brute force which is as contrary to the law of 
God in men as in women; still, as a part of our 
history, I shall notice some instances of courage 
exhibited by females. 

1 Philippa, wife of Edward III., was the prin- 
cipal cause of the victory gained over the Scots 
at Neville Cross. In the absence of her hus- 
band, she rode among the troops, and exhorted 
them to "be of good courage." ' Jane, Coun- 
tess of Mountfort, and a contemporary of Phi- 
lippa, likewise possessed a great share of phy- 
sical courage. The history of Joan of Arc is 
too familiar to need repetition. During the 
reign of James II. a singular instance of female 
intrepidity occurred in Scotland* Sir John 
Cochrane being condemned to be hung, his 
daughter twice disguised herself, and robbed 
the mail that brought his death warrant. In 


he mean time, his pardon was obtained from, 
the King. Instances might be multiplied, but 
it is unnecessary. I shall therefore close these 
proofs of female courage with one more fact. 

* During the revolutionary war, the women shar- 
ed in the patriotism and bravery of the men. 
Several individuals carried their enthusiasm so 
far as to enter the army, where they faced all 
the perils and fatigues of the camp, until the v 
close of the war.' 

When I view my countrywomen in the char- 
acter of soldiers, or even behold them loading 
fire arms and moulding bullets for their breth- 
ren to destroy men's lives, I cannot refrain a 
sigh. I cannot but contrast their conduct at 
that solemn crisis with the conduct of those 
women who followed their Lord and Master 
with unresisting submission, to Calvary's Mount. 
With the precepts and example of a crucified 
Redeemer, who, in that sublime precept, ■ Resist 
not evil,' has interdicted to his disciples all war 
and all violence, and taught us that the spirit 
of retaliation for injuries, whether in the camp, 
or at the fire-side, is wholly at variance with 
the peaceful religion he came to promulgate. 
How little do we comprehend that simple truth, 

* By this shall all men know that ye are my 
disciples, if ye have love one to another. .' 

Women have sometimes distinguished them- 
selves in a way more consistent with their 
duties as moral beings. During the war be- 
tween the Romans and the Sabines, the Sabine 
women who had been carried off by the Ro- 
mans, repaired to the Sabine camp, dressed in 
deep mourning, with their little ones in their 
-arms, to soften, if possible, the feelings of their 
parents. They knelt at the feel of their rela- 


tives ; and when Hersilia, the wife of Romulus, 
described the kindness of their husbands, and 
their unwillingness to he separated from them, 
their fathers yielded to their entreaties, and an 
alliance w T as soon agreed upon. In consequence 
of this important service, peculiar privileges 
were conferred on women by the Romans. 
Brutus said of his wife, ' I must not answer 
Portia in the words of Hector, " Mind your 
wheel, and to your maids give law," for in cou- 
rage, activity and concern for her country's 
freedom, she is inferior to none of us.' After 
the fatal battle of Cannse, the Roman women 
consecrated all their ornaments to the service of 
the state. But when the triumvirs attempted 
to tax them for the expenses of carrying on a 
civil war, they resisted the innovation. They 
chose Hortensia for their speaker, and went in 
a body to the market-place to expostulate with 
the magistrates. The triumvirs wished to drive 
them away, but they were compelled to yield 
to the wishes of the people, and give the women 
a hearing. Hortensia pleaded so well the cause 
of her sisters, who resolved that they would not 
voluntarily aid in a civil ivar, that the number 
of women taxed was reduced from 1400 to 

In the wars of the Guelphs and the Ghibbe- 
lines, the emperor Conrad refused all terms of 
capitulation to the garrison of Winnisberg, but 
he granted the request of the women to pass 
out in safety with such of their effects as they 
could carry themselves. Accordingly, they is- 
sued from the besieged city, each bearing on 
her shoulders a husband, son, father, or brother. 
They passed unmolested through the enemy's 
camp, which rung with acclamations of ap- 


During our struggle for independence, the 
women were as exemplary as the men in vari- 
ous instances of self-denial : they refused every 
article of decoration for their persons ; foreign 
elegances were laid aside, and they cheerfully 
abstained from luxuries for their tables. 

English history presents many instances of 
women exercising prerogatives now denied 
them. In an action at law, it has been deter- 
mined that an unmarried woman, having a free- 
hold, might vote for members of Parliament ; 
and it is recorded that lady Packington returned 
two. Lady Broughton was keeper of the gate- 
house prison. And in a much later period, a 
woman was appointed governor of the house of 
correction at Chelmsford, by order of the court. 
In the reign of George II. the minister of Clerk- 
en well was chosen by a majority of women. 
The office of grand chamberlain in 1822 was 
filled by two women ; and that of clerk of the 
crown, in the court of king's bench, has been 
granted to a female. The celebrated Anne, 
countess of Pembroke, held the hereditary 
office of sheriff of Westmoreland, and exer- 
cised it in person, sitting on the bench with the 

I need hardly advert to the names of Eliza- 
beth of England, Maria Theresa of Germany, 
Catharine of Russia, and Isabella of Spain, to 
prove that women are capable of swaying the 
sceptre of royalty. The page of history proves 
incontestibly, not only that they are as well 
qualified to do so as men, but that there has 
been a comparatively greater proportion of good 
queens, than of good kings ; women who have 
purchased their celebrity by individual strength 
of character. 


I mention these women only to prove that 
intellect is not sexed; that strength of mind is 
not sexed ; and that our views about the duties 
of men and the duties of women, the sphere of 
man and the sphere of woman, are mere arbi- 
trary opinions, differing in different ages and 
countries, and dependant solely on the will and 
judgment of erring mortals. 

As moral and responsible beings, men and 
women have the same sphere of action, and the 
same duties devolve upon both ; but no one can 
doubt that the duties of each vary according to 
circumstances ; that a father and a mother, a 
husband and a wife, have sacred obligations 
resting on them, which cannot possibly belong 
to those who do not sustain these relations. 
But these duties and responsibilities do not 
attach to them as men and as women, but as 
parents, husbands, and wives. 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sabah M. Grimke. 



Brookline, 8th Mo. 1837. 

My Dear Sister, — It will scarcely be de- 
nied, I presume, that, as a generalfrule, men do 
not desire the improvement of women. There 
are few instances of men who are magnanimous 
enough to be entirely willing that women should 
know more than themselves, on any subjects 
except dress and cookery; and, indeed, this 
necessarily flows from their assumption of supe- 
riority. As they have determined that Jehovah 
has placed woman on a lower platform than 
man, they of course wish to keep her there ; 
and hence the noble faculties of our minds are 
crushed, and our reasoning powers are almost 
wholly uncultivated. 

A writer in the time of Charles I. says — 
* She that knoweth how to compound a pud- 
ding, is more desirable than she who skilfully 
compounded a poem. A female poet I mislike 
at all times.' Within the last century, it has 
been gravely asserted that, ' chemistry enough 
to keep the pot boiling, and geography enough 
to know the location of the different rooms in 
her house, is learning sufficient for a woman.' 
Byron, who was too sensual to conceive of a 


pure and perfect companionship between the 
sexes, would limit a woman's library to a Bible 
and cookery book. I have myself heard men, 
who knew for themselves the value of intellec- 
tual culture, say they cared very little for a 
wife who could not make a pudding, and smile 
with contempt at the ardent thirst for knowledge 
exhibited by some women. 

But all this is miserable wit and worse philo- 
sophy. It exhibits that passion for the gratifi- 
cation of a pampered appetite, which is beneath 
those who claim to be so far above us, and may 
justly be placed on a par with the policy of the 
slaveholder, who says that men will be better 
slaves, if they are not permitted to learn to 

{ In spite, however, of the obstacles which im- 
pede the progress of women towards that state 
of high mental cultivation for which her Crea- 
tor prepared her, the tendency towards the uni- 
versal dissemination of knowledge has had its 
influence on their destinies ; and in all ages, a 
few have surmounted every hindrance, and 
proved, beyond dispute, that they have talents 
equal to their brethren. 

Cornelia, the daughter of Scipio Africanus, 
was distinguished for virtue, learning and good 
sense. She wrote and spoke with uncommon 
elegance and purity. Cicero and Quinctilian 
bestow high praise upon her letters, and the 
eloquence of her children was attributed to her 
careful superintendence. This reminds me of 
a remark made by my brother, Thomas S. 
Grimke, when speaking of the importance of 
women being well educated, that ' educated 
snen would never make educated women, but 
educated women would make educated men/ 


I believe the sentiment is correct, because if the 
wealth of latent intellect among women was 
fully evolved and improved, they would rejoice 
to communicate to their sons all their own 
knowledge, and inspire them with desires to 
drink from the fountain of literature. 

I pass over many interesting proofs of the 
intellectual powers of women ; but I must not 
omit glancing at the age of chivalry, which has 
been compared to a golden thread running 
through the dark ages. During this remark- 
able era, women who, before this period, had 
been subject to every species of oppression and 
neglect, were suddenly elevated into deities, 
and worshipped with a mad fanaticism. It is 
not improbable, however, that even the absur- 
dities of chivalry were beneficial to women, as 
it raised them from that extreme degradation 
to which they had been condemned, and pre- 
pared the way for them to be permitted to enjoy 
some scattered rays from the sun of science and 
literature. As the age of knight-errantry de- 
clined, men began to take pride in learning, 
and women shared the advantages which this 
change produced. ' Women preached in public, 
supported controversies, published and defended 
theses, filled the chairs of philosophy and law, 
harangued, the popes in Latin, wrote Greek and 
read Hebrew. Nuns wrote poetry, women of 
rank became divines, and young girls publicly 
exhorted Christian princes to take up arms for 
the recovery of the holy sepulchre. Hypatia, 
daughter of Theon of Alexandria, succeeded 
her father in the government of the Platonic 
school, and filled with reputation a seat, where 
many celebrated philosophers had taught. The 
people regarded her as an oracle, and magis 


trates consulted her in all important cases. 
No reproach was ever uttered against the per- 
fect purity of her manners. She was unem- 
barrassed in large assemblies of men, because 
their admiration was tempered with the most 
scrupulous respect. In the 13th century, a 
young lady of Bologna pronounced a Latin 
oration at the age of twenty-three. At twenty- 
six, she took the degree of doctor of laws, and 
began publicly to expound Justinian. At thirty, 
she was elevated to a professor's chair, and 
taught the law to a crowd of scholars from all 
nations. Italy produced many learned and 
gifted women, among whom, perhaps none was 
more celebrated than Victoria Colonna, March- 
, ioness of Pescara. In Spain, Isabella of Rosera 

t/ converted Jews by her eloquent preaching;' and 
in England the names of many women, from 
Lady Jane Gray down to Harriet Martineau, 
are familiar to every reader of history. Of the 
last mentioned authoress, Lord Brougham said 
that her writings on political economy were 
doing more good than those of any man in 
England. There is a contemporary of Harriet 
Martineau, who has recently rendered valuable 
services to her country. She presented a me- 

I morial to Parliament, stating the dangerous 
parts of the coast, where light-houses were 
needed, and at her suggestion, several were 
erected. She keeps a life-boat and sailors in 
her pay, and has been the means of saving 
many lives. Although she has been deprived 
of the use of her limbs since early childhood, 
yet even when the storm is unusually severe, 
she goes herself on the beach in her carriage, 
that she may be sure her men perform their 
duty. She understands several languages, and 


is now engaged in writing a work on the North- 
ern languages of Europe. ' In Germany, the 
influence of women on literature is considerable, 
though less obvious than in some other coun- 
tries. Literary families frequently meet at each 
others houses, and learned and intelligent wo- 
men are often the brightest ornaments of these 
social circles.' France has produced many dis- 
tinguished women, whose names are familiar 
to every lover of literature. And I believe it is 
conceded universally, that Madame de Stael 
was intellectually the greatest woman that ever 
lived. The United States have produced sev- 
eral female writers, some of whom have talents 
of the highest order. But women, even in this 
free republic, do not enjoy all the intellectual 
advantages of men, although there is a percep- 
tible improvement within the last ten or twenty 
years ; and I trust there is a desire awakened in 
my sisters for solid acquirements, which will 
elevate them to their ' appropriate sphere,' and 
enable them to ' adorn the doctrine of God our 
Saviour in all things.' 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



Brookline, 9th Mo., 1837. 

My Dear Sister, — When I view woman as 
an immortal being, travelling through this world 
to that city whose builder and maker is God, — 
when I contemplate her in all the sublimity of 
her spiritual existence, bearing the image and 
superscription of Jehovah, emanating from Him 
and partaking of his nature, and destined, if 
she fulfils her duty, to dwell with him through 
the endless ages of eternity, — I mourn that she 
has lived so far below her privileges and her 
obligations, as a rational and accountable crea- 
ture ; and I ardently long to behold her occupy- 
ing that sphere in which I believe her Creator 
designed her to move. 

Woman, in all ages and countries, has been 
the scoff and the jest of her lordly master. If 
she attempted, like him, to improve her mind, 
she was ridiculed as pedantic, and driven from 
the temple of science and literature by coarse 
attacks and vulgar sarcasms. If she yielded to 
the pressure of circumstances, and sought relief 
from the monotony of existence by resorting to 
the theatre and the ball-room, by ornamenting 
her person with flowers and with jewels, while 


her mind was empty and her heart desolate ; 
she was still the mark at which wit and satire 
and cruelty levelled their arrows. 

' Woman,' says Adam Clarke, c has been in- 
vidiously defined, an animal of dress. How 
long will they permit themselves to be thus de- 
graded V I have been an attentive observer of 
my sex, and I am constrained to believe that 
the passion for dress, which so generally char- 
acterizes them, is one cause why there so is 
little of that solid improvement and weight of 
character which might be acquired under almost 
any circumstances, if the mind were not occu- 
pied by the love of admiration, and the desire 
to gratify personal vanity. I have already ad- 
duced some instances to prove the inordinate 
love of dress, which is exhibited by women in 
a state of heathenism ; I shall, therefore, con- 
fine myself now to what are called Christian 
countres ; only remarking that previous to the 
introauction of Christianity into the Roman 
empire, the extravagance of apparel had arisen 
to an unprecedented height. 'Jewels, expen- 
sive embroidery, and delicious perfumes, were 
used in great profusion by those who could 
afford them.' The holy religion of Jesus 
Christ came in at this period, and stript luxury 
and wealth of all their false attractions. ' Wo- 
men of the noblest and wealthiest families, 
surrounded by the seductive allurements of 
worldly pleasure, renounced them all. Undis- 
mayed by severe edicts against the new religion, 
they appeared before the magistrates, and by 
pronouncing the simple words, " I am a Chris- 
tian," calmly resigned themselves to imprison- 
ment, ignominy and death.' Could such women 
have had their minds occupied by the foolish 


vanity of ornamental apparel ? No ! Chris- 
tianity struck at the root of all sin, and conse- 
quently we find the early Christians could not 
fight, or swear, or wear costly clothing. Cave, 
in his work entitled ' Primitive Christianity,' 
has some interesting remarks on this subject, 
showing that simplicity of dress was not then 
esteemed an unimportant part of Christianity. 

Very soon, however, when the fire of perse- 
cution was no longer blazing, pagan customs 
became interwoven with Christianity. The 
professors of the religion of a self-denying Lord, 
w T hose kingdom was not of this world, began 
to use the sword, to return railing for railing, 
to take oaths, to mingle heathen forms and cer- 
emonies with Christian worship, to engraft on 
the beautiful simplicity of piety, the feasts and 
observances which were usual at heathen festi- 
vals in honor of the gods, and to adorn their 
persons with rich and ornamental apparel. 
And now if we look at Christendom, there is 
scarcely a vestige of that religion, which the 
Redeemer of men came to promulgate. The 
Christian world is much in the situation of the 
Jewish nation, when, the babe of Bethlehem 
was born, full of outside observances, which 
they substitute for mercy and love, for self- 
denialand good works, rigid in the performance 
of religious duties, but ready, if the Lord Jesus 
came amongst them and judged them by their 
fruits, as he did the Pharisees formerly, to 
crucify him as a slanderer. Indeed, I believe 
the remark of a late author is perfectly cor- 
rect : 

' Strange as it may seem, yet I do not hesitate to declare 
my belief that it is easier to make Pagan nations Christians, 
than to reform Christian communities and fashion them 


anew, after the pure and simple standard of the gospel. 
Cast your eye over Christian countries, and see what a mul- 
titude of causes combine to resist and impair the influence 
of Christian institutions. Behold the conformity of Chris- 
tians to the world, in its prodigal pleasures and frivolous 
amusements, in its corrupt opinions and sentiments, of false 
honor. Behold the wide spread ignorance and degrading 
superstition; the power of prejudice and the authority of 
custom; the unchristian character of our systems of educa- 
tion; and the dread of the frowns and ridicule of the world, 
and we discover at once a host of more formidable enemies 
to the progress of true religion in Christian, than in heathen 

But I must proceed to examine what is the 
state of professing Christendom, as regards the 
subject of this letter. A few words will suffice. 
The habits and employments of fashionable 
circles are nearly the same throughout Chris- 
tian communities. The fashion of dress, which 
varies more rapidly than the changing seasons, 
is still, as it has been from time immemorial, 
an all-absorbing object of interest. The simple 
cobbler of Agawam, who wrote in Massachu- 
setts as early as 1647, speaking of women, 

1 It is no marvel they wear drailes on the hinder part of 
their heads, having nothing, as it seems, in the fore part, 
but a few squirrels 7 brains to help them frisk from one fashion 
to another.' 

It must, however, be conceded, that although 
there are too many women who merit this severe 
reprehension, there is a numerous class whose 
improvement of mind and devotion to the cause 
of humanity justly entitle them to our respect 
and admiration. One of the most striking 
characteristics of modern times, is the tendency 
toward a universal dissemination of knowledge 
in all Protestant communities. But the charac- 
ter of woman has been elevated more by par- 


ticipating in the great mora] enterprises of the 
day, than by anything else. It would astonish 
us if we could see at a glance all the labor, the 
patience, the industry, the fortitude which wo- 
man has exhibited, in carrying on the causes of 
Moral Reform, Anti- Slavery, &c. Still, even 
these noble and ennobling pursuits have not 
destroyed personal vanity. Many of those who 
are engaged in these great and glorions refor- 
mations, watch with eager interest, the ever 
varying freaks of the goddess of fashion, and 
are not exceeded by the butterflies of the ball- 
room in their love of curls, artificial flowers, 
embroidery and gay apparel. Many a woman 
will ply her needle with ceaseless industry, to 
obtain money to forward a favorite benevolent 
scheme, while at the same time she will expend 
on useless articles of dress, more than treble 
the sum which she procures by the employment 
of her needle, and which she might throw into 
the Lord's treasury, and leave herself leisure 
to cultivate her mind, and to mingle among the 
poor and the afflicted more than she can possi- 
bly do now. 

I feel exceedingly solicitous to draw the at- 
tention of my sisters to this subject. I know 
that it is called trifling, and much is said about 
dressing fashionably, and elegantly, and becom- 
ingly, without thinking about it. This I do 
not believe can be done. If we indulge our 
fancy in the chameleon caprices of fashion, or 
in wearing ornamental and extravagant apparel, 
the mind must be in no small degree engaged 
in the gratification of personal vanity. 

Lest any one may suppose from my being a 
Quaker, that I should like to see a uniform 
dress adopted, I will say, that I have no par- 


tiality for their peculiar costume, except so far as 
I find it simple and convenient ; and I have not 
the remotest desire to see it worn, where one 
more commodious can be substituted. But I 
do believe one of the chief obstacles in the way 
of woman's elevation to the same platform of 
human rights, and moral dignity, and intellect- 
ual improvement, with her brother, on which 
God placed her, and where he designed her to 
act her part as an immortal creature, is her love 
of dress. ' It has been observed/ says Scott, 
' that foppery and extravagance as to dress in 
men are most emphatically condemned by the 
apostle's silence on the subject, for this intima- 
ted that surely they could be under no tempta- 
tion to such a childish vanity.' But even those 
men who are superior to such a childish vanity 
in themselves, are, nevertheless, ever ready to 
encourage it in women. They know that so 
long as we submit to be dressed like dolls, we 
never can rise to the stations of duty and use- 
fulness from which they desire to exclude us ; 
and they are willing to grant us paltry indul- 
gences, which forward their own design of 
keeping us out of our appropriate sphere, while 
they deprive us of essential rights. 

To me it appears beneath the dignity of wo- 
man to bedeck herself in gewgaws and trinkets, 
in ribbons and laces, to gratify the eye of man. 
I believe, furthermore, that we owe a solemn 
duty to the poor. Many a woman, in what is 
called humble life, spends nearly all her earn- 
ings in dress, because she wants to be as well 
attired as her employer. * It is often argued that, 
as the birds and the flowers are gaily adorned 
by nature's hand, there can be no sin in wo- 
man's ornamenting her person. My reply 


is, God created me neither a bird nor a 
flower; and I aspire to \ something more than 
a resemblance to them. Besides, the gaudy 
colors in which birds and flowers are arrayed, 
create in them no feelings of vanity ; but as 
human beings, we are susceptible of these pas- 
sions, which are nurtured and strengthened by 
such adornments. ' Well,' I am often asked, 
' where is the limitation V This it is not my 
business to decide. Every woman, as Judson 
remarks, can best settle this on her knees before 
God. He has commanded her not to be con- 
formed to this world, but to be transformed by 
the renewing of her mind, that she may know 
what is the good and acceptable and perfect 
will of God. He made the dress of the Jew- 
ish women the subject of special denunciation 
by his prophet — Is. S. 16 — 26 ; yet the chains 
and the bracelets, the rings and the ear-rings, 
and the changeable suits of apparel, are still 
worn by Christian women. He has command- 
ed them, through his apostles, not to adorn 
themselves with broidered hair, or gold, or 
pearls, or costly array. Not to let their adorn- 
ing be the ' outward adorning of plaiting the 
hair, or of wearing of gold, or of putting on of 
apparel, but let it be the hidden man of the 
heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the 
ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is 
in the sight of God of great price ; ' yet we 
disregard these solemn admonitions. May we 
not form some correct estimate of dress, by ask- 
ing ourselves how we should feel, if we saw 
ministers of the gospel rise to address an audi- 
ence with ear-rings dangling from their ears, 
glittering rings on their fingers, and a wreath 
of artificial flowers on their brow, and the rest 


of their apparel in keeping ? If it would be 
wrong for a minister, it is wrong for every pro- 
fessing Christian. God makes no distinction 
between the moral and religious duties of min- 
isters and people. We are bound to be ' a cho- 
sen generation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar 
people, a holy nation ; that we should show 
forth the praises" of him. who hath called us out 
of darkness into his marvellous light.' 
Thine in the bonds of .womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



Concord, 9tk Mo., 6tk, 1837. 

My Dear Sister, — There are few things 
which present greater obstacles to the improve- 
ment and elevation of woman to her appropriate 
sphere of usefulness and duty, than the laws 
which have been enacted to destroy her inde- 
pendence< and crush her individuality ; laws 
which, although they are framed for her gov- 
ernment, she has had no voice in establishing, 
and which rob her of some of her essential 
rights. Woman has no political existence. 
With the single exception of presenting a peti- 
tion to the legislative body, she is a cipher in 
the nation ; or, if not actually so in representa- 
tive governments, she is only counted, like the 
slaves of the South, to swell the number of 
law-makers who form decrees for her gov- 
ernment, with little reference to her benefit, 
except so far as her good may promote 
their own. I am not sufficiently acquainted 
with the laws respecting women on the conti- 
nent of Europe, to say anything about them. 
But Prof. Follen, in his essay on ' The Cause 
of Freedom in our Country,' says, 'Woman, 
though fully possessed of that rational and 



moral nature which is the foundation of all 
rights, enjoys amongst us fewer legal rights 
than under the civil law of continental Europe.' 
I shall confine myself to the laws of our coun- 
try. These laws bear with peculiar rigor on 
married women. Blackstone, in the chapter 
entitled ' Of husband and wife,' says : — 

• By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in 
law; that is, the very being, or legal existence of the 
zvoman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is in- 
corporated and consolidated into that of the husband under 
whose wing, protection and cover she performs everything.' 
* For this reason, a man cannot grant anything to his wife, 
or enter into covenant with her; for the grant would be to 
suppose her separate existence, and to covenant with her 
would he to covenant with himself; and therefore it is also 
generally true, that all compacts made between husband and 
wife when single, are voided by the intermarriage. A woman 
indeed maybe attorney for her husbandj but that implies no 
separation from, but is rather a representation of, her love.' 

Here now, the very being of a woman, like 
that of a slave, is absorbed in her master. All 
contracts made with her, like those made with 
slaves by their owners, are a mere nullity. 
Our kind defenders have legislated away almost 
all our legal rights, and in the true spirit of 
such injustice and oppression, have kept us in 
ignorance of those very laws by which we are 
governed. They have persuaded us, that we 
have no right to investigate the laws, and that, 
if we did, we could not comprehend them; 
they alone are capable of understanding the 
mysteries of Blackstone, &c. But they are not 
backward to make us feel the practical opera- 
tion of their power over our actions. 

*T\\e husband is bound to provide his wife with neces- 
saries-by law, as much as himself; and if she contracts debts 
for them, he is obliged to pay for them; but for anything be- 
sides necessaries, he is not chargeable.' 


Yet a man may spend the property he has 
acquired by marriage at the ale-house, the gam- 
bling table, or in any other way that he pleases. 
Many instances of this kind have come to my 
knowledge ; and women, who have brought 
their husbands handsome fortunes, have been 
left, in consequence of the wasteful and disso- 
lute habits of their husbands, in straitened cir- 
cumstances, and compelled to toil for the support 
of their families. 

* If the wife be indebted before marriage, the husband is 
bound afterwards to pay the debt; for he has adopted her 
and her circumstances together.' 

The wife's property is, I believe, equally lia- 
ble for her husband's debts contracted before 

f If the wife be injured h her person or property, she can 
bring no action for redress without her husband's concur- 
rence, and his name as well as her own : neither can she be 
sued, without making her husband a defendant.' 

This law that ' a wife can bring no action/ 
&c, is similar to the law respecting slaves, 
1 A slave cannot bring a suit against his master, 
or any other person, for an injury — his master, 
must bring it.' So if any damages are recov- 
ered for an injury committed on a wife, the 
husband pockets it ; in the case of the slave, the 
master does the same. 

• In criminal prosecutions, the wife may be indicted and 
punished separately, unless there be evidence of coercion 
from the fact that the offence was committed in the presence, 
or by the command of her husband. A wife is excused from 
punishment for tlteft committed in the presence, or by the 
command of her husband.' 

It would be difficult to frame a law better 
calculated to destroy the responsibility of woman 
as a moral being, or a free agent. Her hus- 


band is supposed to possess unlimited control 
over her ; and if she can offer the flimsy excuse 
that he bade her steal, she may break the eighth 
commandment with impunity, as far as human 
laws are concerned. 

* Our law, in general, considers man and wife as one per- 
son ; yet there are some instances in which she is separately 
considered, as inferior to him and acting by his compulsion. 
Therefore, all deeds executed, and acts done by her during 
her coverture (i. e. marriage,) are void, except it be a fine, 
or like matter of record, in which case she must be solely 
and secretly examined, to learn if her act be voluntary. 5 

Such a law speaks volumes of the abuse of 
that power which men have vested in their own 
hands. Still the private examination of a wife, 
to know whether she accedes to the disposition 
of property made by her husband is, in most 
cases, a mere form ; a wife dares not do what 
will be disagreeable to one who is, in his own 
estimation, her superior, and who makes her 
feel, in the privacy. of domestic life, that she 
has thwarted him. With respect to the nullity 
of deeds or acts done by a wife, I will mention 
one circumstance. A respectable woman bor- 
rowed of a female friend a sum of money to re- 
lieve her son from some distressing pecuniary 
embarrassment. Her husband was from home, 
and she assured the lender, that as soon as he 
returned, he would gratefully discharge the debt. 
She gave her note, and the lender, entirely ig- 
norant of the law that a man is not obliged to 
discharge such a debt, actually borrowed the 
money, and lent it to the distressed and weep- 
ing mother. The father returned home, refused 
to pay the debt, and the person who had loaned 
the money was obliged to pay both principal 
and interest to the friend who lent it to her. 
Women should certainly know the laws by 


which they are governed, and from which they 
frequently suffer; yet they are kept in igno- 
rance, nearly as profound, of their legal rights, 
and of the legislative enactments which are 
to regulate their actions, as slaves. 

'The husband, by the old law, might give his wife mode- 
rate correction, as he is to answer for her misbehavior. 
The law thought it reasonable to entrust him with this 
power of restraining her by domestic chastisement. The 
courts of law will still permit a husband to restrain a wife 
of her liberty, in case of any gross misbehavior.' 

What a mortifying proof this law affords, of 
the estimation in which woman is held! She 
is placed completely in the hands of a being 
subject like herself to the outbursts of passion, 
and therefore unworthy to be trusted with pow- 
er. Perhaps I may be told respecting this law, 
that it is a dead letter, as I am sometimes told 
about the slave laws ; but this is not true in 
either case. The slaveholder does kill his slave 
by moderate correction, as the law allows ; and 
many a husband, among the poor, exercises the 
right given him by the law, of degrading 
woman by personal chastisement. And among 
the higher ranks, if actual imprisonment is not 
resorted to, women are not un frequently restrain- 
ed of the liberty of going to places of worship 
by irreligious husbands, and of doing many 
other things about which, as moral and respon- 
sible beings, they should be the sole judges. 
Such laws remind me of the reply of some lit- 
tle girls at a children's meeting held recently at 
Ipswich. The lecturer told them that God had 
created four orders of beings with which he 
had made us acquainted through the Bible. 
The first was angels, the second was man, 


the third beasts ; and now, children, what is the 
fourth ? After a pause, several girls replied, 

j ' A woman's personal property by marriage becomes ab- 
solutely der husband's, which, at his death, he may leave 
entirely away from her.' 

And farther, all the avails of her labor are 
absolutely in the power of her husband. All 
that she acquires by her industry is his ; so 
that she cannot, with her own honest earnings, 
become the legal purchaser of any property. 
If she expends her money for articles of furni- 
ture, to contribute to the comfort of her family, 
they are liable to be seized for her husband's 
debts: and I know an instance of a woman, 
who by labor and economy had scraped togeth- 
er a little maintenance for herself and a do-little 
husband, who was left, at his death, by virtue 
of his last will and testament, to be supported 
by charity. I knew another woman, who by 
great industry had acquired a little money which 
she deposited in a bank for safe keeping. She 
had saved this pittance whilst able to work, in 
hopes that when age or sickness disqualified her 
for exertion, she might have something to ren- 
der life comfortable, without being a burden to 
her friends. Her husband, a worthless, idle 
man, discovered this hid treasure, drew her lit- 
tle stock from the bank, and expended it all in 
extravagance and vicious indulgence. I know 
of another woman, who married without the 
least idea that she was surrendering Jier rights 
to all her personal property. Accordingly, she 
went to the bank as usual to draw her divi- 
dends, and the person who paid her the money, 
and to whom she was personally known as an 


owner of shares in that bank, remarking the 
change in her signature, withdrew the money, 
informing her that if she were married, she had 
no longer a right to draw her dividends without 
an order from her husband. It appeared that 
she intended having a little fund for private 
use, and had not even told her husband that she 
owned this stock, and she was not a little cha- 
grined, when she found that it was not at her 
disposal. I think she was wrong to conceal the 
circumstance. The relation of husband and 
wife is too near and sacred to admit of secrecy 
about money matters, unless positive necessity 
demands it ; and I can see no excuse for any 
woman entering into a marriage engagement 
with a design to keep her husband ignorant that 
she was possessed of property. If she was un- 
willing to give up her property to his disposal, 
she had infinitely better have remained single. 
The laws above cited are not very unlike the 
slave laws of Louisiana. 

1 All that a slave possesses belongs to his master; he pos- 
sesses nothing of his own, except what his master chooses he 
should possess.' 

* By the marriage, the husband is absolutely master of the 
profits of the wife's lands during the coverture, and if he 
has had a living child, and survives the wife, he retains the 
whole of those lands, if they are estates of inheritance, dur- 
ing his life; but the wife is entitled only to one third if she 
survives, out of the husband's estates of inheritance. But 
this she has, whether she has had a child or not.' * With 
regard to the property of women, there is taxation without 
representation; for they pay taxes without having the liber- 
ty of voiing for representatives.' 

And this taxation, without representation, be 
it remembered, was the cause of our Revolu- 
tionary war, a grievance so heavy, that it was 
thought necessary to purchase exemption from 


it at an immense expense of blood and treasure, 
yet the daughters of New England, as well as 
of all the other States of this free Republic, are 
suffering a similar injustice — but for one, I had 
rather we should suffer any injustice or oppres- 
sion, than that my sex should have any voice in 
the political affairs of the nation. 

The laws I have quoted, are, I believe, the 
laws of Massachusetts, and, with few excep- 
tions, of all the States in this Union. ' In 
Louisiana and Missouri, and possibly, in some 
other southern States, a woman not only has 
half her husband's property by right at his 
death, but may always be considered as pos- 
sessed of half his gains during his life ; hav- 
ing at all times power to bequeath that amount.' 
That the laws which have generally been adopt- 
ed in the United States, for the government of 
women, have been framed almost entirely for 
the exclusive benefit of men, and with a design 
to oppress women, by depriving them of all 
control over their property, is too manifest to be 
denied. Some liberal and enlightened men, I 
know, regret the existence of these laws ; and I 
quote with pleasure an extract from Harriet 
Martineau's Society in America, as a proof of 
the assertion. ' A liberal minded lawyer of 
Boston, told me that his advice to testators al- 
ways is to leave the largest possible amount to 
the widow, subject to the condition of her leav- 
ing it to the children ; but that it is with shame 
that he reflects that any woman should owe that 
to his professional advice, which the law should 
have secured to her as a right.' I have known 
a few instances where men have left their whole 
property to their wives, when they have died, 
leaving only minor children ; but I have known 


more instances of * the friend and helper of 
many years, being portioned off like a salaried 
domestic,' instead of having a comfortable inde- 
pendence secured to her, while the children 
were amply provided for. 

As these abuses do exist, and women suffer 
intensely from them, our brethren are called 
upon in this enlightened age, by every senti- 
ment of honor, religion and justice, to repeal 
these unjust and unequal laws, and restore to 
woman those rights which they have wrested 
from her. Such laws approximate too nearly 
to the laws enacted by slaveholders for the gov- 
ernment of their slaves, and must tend to de- 
base and depress the mind of that being, whom 
God created as a help meet for man, or ' helper 
like unto himself,' and designed to be his equal 
and his companion. Until such laws are an- 
nulled, woman never can occupy that exalted 
station for which she was intended by her Ma- 
ker. And just in proportion as they are prac- 
tically disregarded, which is the case to some 
extent, just so far is woman assuming that in- 
dependence and nobility of character which she 
ought to exhibit. 

The various laws which I have transcribed, 
leave women very little more liberty, or power, 
in some respects, than the slave. ' A slave,' 
says the civil code of Louisiana, ' is one who 
is in the power of a master, to whom he be- 
longs. He can possess nothing, nor acquire 
anything, but what must belong to his master.' 
I do not wish by any means to intimate that the 
condition of free women can be compared to 
that of slaves in suffering, or in degradation ; 
still, I believe the laws which deprive married 
women of their rights and privileges, have a 


tendency to lessen them in their own estimation 
as moral and responsible beings, and that their 
being made by civil law inferior to their hus- 
bands, has a debasing and mischievous effect 
upon them, teaching them practically the fatal 
lesson to look unto man for protection and in- 
dulgence. \ 
Ecclesiastical bodies, I believe, without ex- 
ception, follow the example of legislative assem- 
blies, in excluding woman from any participa- 
tion in forming the discipline by which she is 
governed. The men frame the laws, and, with 
few exceptions, claim to execute them on both 
sexes. In ecclesiastical, as well as civil courts, 
woman is tried and condemned, not by a jury 
of her peers, but by beings, who regard them- 
selves as her superiors in the scale of creation. 
Although looked upon as an inferior, when con- 
sidered as an intellectual being, woman is pun- 
ished with the same severity as man, when she 
is guilty of moral offences. Her condition re- 
sembles, in some measure, that of the slave, 
who, while he is denied the advantages of his 
more enlightened master, is treated with even 
greater rigor of the law. Hoping that in the 
various reformations of the day, women may 
be relieved from some of their legal disabilities, 
I remain, 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



BrooWne, 9th Mo., 1S37. 

My Dear Sister, — Perhaps some persons 
may wonder that I should attempt to throw out 
my views on the important subject of marriage, 
and may conclude that I am altogether disqual- 
ified for the task, because I lack experience. 
However, I shall not undertake to settle the spe- 
cific duties of husbands and wives, but only to 
exhibit opinions based on the word of God, and 
formed from a little knowledge of human na- 
ture, and close observation of the working of 
generally received notions respecting the do- 
minion of man over woman. 

When Jehovah ushered into existence man, 
created in his own image, he instituted marriage 
as a part of paradisaical happiness : it was a 
divine ordination, not a civil contract. God es- 
tablished it, and man, except by special permis- 
sion, has no right to annul it. There can be no 
doubt that the creation of Eve perfected the 
happiness of Adam ; hence, our all-wise and 
merciful Father made her as he made Adam, 
in his own image after his likeness, crowned 
her with glory and honor, and placed in her 
hand, as well as in his, the sceptre of dominion 


over the whole lower creation. Where there 
was perfect equality, and the same ability to 
receive and comprehend divine truth, and to 
obey divine injunctions, there could be no su- 
periority. If God had placed Eve under the 
guardianship of Adam, after having endowed 
her, as richly as him, with moral perceptions, 
intellectual faculties, and spiritual apprehen- 
sions, he would at once have interposed a falli- 
ble being between her and her Maker. He 
could not, in simple consistency with himself, 
have done this ; for the Bible teems with in- 
structions not to put any confidence in man. 

The passage on which the generally received 
opinion, that husbands are invested by divine 
command with authority over their wives, as I 
have remarked in a previous letter, is a predic- 
tion ; and I am confirmed in this belief, because 
the same language is used to Cain respecting 
Abel. The text is obscure ; but on a comparison 
of it with subsequent events, it appears to me 
that it was a prophecy of the dominion which 
Cain would usurp over his brother, and which 
issued in the murder of AbeL It could not 
allude to any thing but physical dominion, be- 
cause Cain had already exhibited those evil 
passions which subsequently led him to become 
an assassin. 

I have already shown, that man has exercis- 
ed the most unlimited and brutal power over 
woman, in the peculiar character of husband, — 
a word in most countries synonymous with ty- 
rant. I shall not, therefore, adduce any further 
proofs of the fulfilment of that prophecy, ' He 
will rule over thee,' from the history of heathen 
nations, but just glance at the condition of 


woman in the relation of wife in Christian 

'Previous to the introduction of the religion 
of Jesus Christ, the state of society was wretch- 
edly diseased. The relation of the sexes to 
each other had become so gross in its manifest- 
ed forms, that it was difficult to perceive the 
pure conservative principle in its inward es- 
sence.' Christianity came in, at this juncture, 
with its hallowed influence, and has without 
doubt tended to lighten the yoke of bondage, to 
purify the manners, and give the spiritual in 
some degree an empire over the animal nature. 
Still, that state which was designed by God to 
increase the happiness of woman as well as 
man, often proves the means of lessening her 
comfort, and degrading her into the mere ma- 
chine of another's convenience and pleasure. 
Woman, instead of being elevated by her union 
with man, which might be expected from an al- 
liance with a superior being, is in reality low- 
ered. She generally loses her individuality, 
her independent character, her moral being. 
She becomes absorbed into him, and henceforth 
is looked at, and acts through the medium of 
her husband. 

In the wealthy classes of society, and those 
who are in comfortable circumstances, women 
are exempt from great corporeal exertion, and 
are protected by public opinion, and by the 
genial influence of Christianity, from much 
physical ill treatment. Still, there is a vast 
amount of secret suffering endured, from the 
forced submission of women to the opinions and 
whims of their husbands. Hence they are fre- 
quently driven to use deception, to compass 
their ends. They are early taught that to ap- 


pear to yield, is the only way to govern. Mis- 
erable sophism ! I deprecate such sentiments, 
as being peculiarly hostile to the dignity of 
woman. If she submits, let her do it openly, 
honorably, not to gain her point, but as a mat- 
ter of Christian duty. But let her beware how 
she permits her husband to be her conscience- 
keeper. On all moral and religious subjects, 
she is bound to think and to act for herself. 
Where confidence and love exist, a wife will 
naturally converse with her hushr.nd as with 
her dearest friend, on all that interests her 
heart, and there will be a perfectly free inter- 
change of sentiment ; but she is no more bound 
to be governed by his judgment, than he is by 
hers. They are standing on the same platform 
of human rights, are equally under the govern- 
ment of God, and accountable to him, and him 
[ I have sometimes been astonished and griev- 
ed at the servitude of women, and at the little 
idea many of them seem to have of their own 
moral existence and responsibilities. A woman 
who is asked to sign a petition for the abolition 
of slavery in the District of Columbia, or to 
join a society for the purpose of carrying for- 
ward the annihilation of American slavery, or 
any other great reformation, not unfrequently 
replies, ' My husband does not approve of it.' 
She merges her rights and her duties in her 
husband, and thus virtually chooses him for a 
savior and a king, and rejects' Christ as her 
Euler and Redeemer. I know some women 
are very glad of so convenient a pretext to 
shield themselves from the performance of duty ; 
but there are others, who, under a mistaken 
view of their obligations as wives, submit con- 

scientiously to this species of oppression, and 
go mourning on their way, for want of that 
holy fortitude, which would enable them to 
fulfil their duties as moral and responsible be- 
ings, without reference to poor fallen man. O 
that woman may arise in her dignity as an im- 
mortal creature, and speak, think and act as 
unto God, and not unto man ! 

There is, perhaps, less bondage of mind 
among the poorer classes, because their sphere 
of duty is more contracted, and they are de- 
prived of the means of intellectual culture, and 
of the opportunity of exercising their judgment, 
on many moral subjects of deep interest and of 
vital importance. Authority is called into ex- 
ercise by resistance, and hence there will be 
mental bondage only in proportion as the facul- 
ties of mind are evolved, and woman feels her- 
self as a rational and intelligent being, on a 
footing with man. But women, among the 
lowest classes of society, so far as my observa- 
tion has extended, suffer intensely from the 
brutality of their husbands. Duty as well as 
inclination has led me, for many years, into the 
abodes of poverty and sorrow, and I have been 
amazed at the treatment which women receive 
at the hands of those, who arrogate to them- 
selves the epithet of protectors* Brute force, 
the law of violence, rules to a great extent in 
the poor man's domicil ; and woman is little 
more than his drudge. They are less under 
the supervision of public opinion, less under the 
restraints of education, and unaided or unbias- 
ed by the refinements of polished society. Re- 
ligion, wherever it exists, supplies the place of 
all these ; but the real cause of woman's de- 


gradation and suffering in married life is to be 
found in the erroneous notion of her inferiority 
to man ; and never will she be rightly regard- 
ed by herself, or others, until this opinion, so 
derogatory to the wisdom and mercy of God, 
is exploded, and woman arises in all the ma- 
jesty of her womanhood, to claim those rights 
which are inseparable from her existence as an 
immortal, intelligent and responsible being. 

Independent of the fact, that Jehovah could 
not, consistently with his character as the King, 
the Lawgiver, and the Judge of his people, 
give the reins of government over woman into 
the hands of man, I find that all his commands, 
all his moral laws, are addressed to women as 
well as to men. When he assembled Israel at 
the foot of Mount Sinai, to issue his command- 
ments, we may reasonably suppose he gave all 
the precepts, which he considered necessary for 
the government of moral beings. Hence we 
find that God says, — ' Honor thy father and thy 
mother,' and he enforces this command, by se- 
vere penalties upon those who transgress it : 
* He that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall 
surely be put to death '— ' He that curseth his 
father, or his mother, shall surely be put to 
death '—Ex. 21: 15, 17. But in the deca- 
logue, there is no direction given to women to 
obey their husbands : both are commanded to 
have no other God but Jehovah, and not to bow 
down, or serve any other. When the Lord 
Jesus delivered his sermon on the Mount, full 
of the practical precepts of religion, he did not 
issue any command to wives to obey their hus- 
bands. When he is speaking on the subject of 
divorce, Mark 16: 11, 12, he places men and 
women on the same gound. And the Apostle, 


1st Cor. 7: 12, 13, speaking of the duties of 
the Corinthian wives and husbands, who had 
embraced Christianity, to their unconverted 
partners, points out the same path to both, al- 
though our translators have made a distinction. 
* Let him not put her away,' 12 — ' Let her not 
leave him,' 13 — is precisely the same in the 
original. If man is constituted the governor of 
woman, he must be her God ; and the senti- 
ment expressed to me lately, by a married man, 
is perfectly correct : ' In my opinion,' said he, 
1 the greatest excellence to which a married 
woman can attain, is to worship her husband.' 
He was a professor of religion — his wife a love- 
ly and intelligent woman. He only spoke out 
what thousands think and act. Women are in- 
debted to Milton for giving to this false notion, 
1 confirmation strong as proof of holy writ.' 
His Eve is embellished with every personal 
grace, to gratify the eye of her admiring hus- 
band ; but he seems to have furnished the 
mother of mankind with just intelligence enough 
to comprehend her supposed inferiority to Adam, 
and to yield unresisting submission to her lord 
and master. Milton puts into Eve's mouth the 
following address to Adam : 

{ My author and disposer, what thou bidst, 
Unargued I obey ; go God ordains — 
God is thy law, thou mine : to know no more, 
Is woman's happiest knowledge and her praise.' 

This much admired sentimental nonsense is 
fraught with absurdity and wickedness. If it 
were true, the commandment of Jehovah should 
have run thus : Man shall have no other gods 
before me, and woman shall have no other gods 
before man. 


The principal support of the dogma of wo- 
man's inferiority, and consequent submission to 
her husband, is found in some passages of 
Paul's epistles. I shall proceed to examine 
those passages, premising 1st, that the antiquity 
of the opinions based on the false construction 
of those passages, has no weight with me : 
they are the opinions of interested judges, and 
I have no particular reverence for them, merely 
because they have been regarded with venera- 
tion from generation to generation. So far 
from this being the case, I examine any opin- 
ions of centuries standing, with as much free- 
dom, and investigate them with as much care, 
as if they were of yesterday. I was educated 
to think for myself, and it is a privilege I shall 
always claim to exercise. 2d. Notwithstand- 
ing my full belief, that the apostle Paul's testi- 
mony, respecting himself, is true, * I was not a 
whit behind the chiefest of the apostles,' yet I 
believe his mind was under the influence of 
Jewish prejudices respecting women, just as 
Peter's and the apostles were about the un- 
cleanness of the Gentiles. * The Jews,' says 
Clarke, ' would not suffer a woman to read in 
the synagogue, although a servant, or even a 
child, had this permission.' When I see Paul 
shaving his head for a vow, and offering sacri- 
fices, and circumcising Timothy, to accommo- 
date himself to the prepossessions of his coun- 
trymen, I do not conceive that I derogate in the 
least from his character as an inspired apostle, 
to suppose that he may have been imbued with 
the prevalent prejudices against women. 

In 1st Cor. 11 : 3, after praising the Corin- 
thian converts, because they kept the ' ordi- 
nances,' or * traditions,' as the margin reads, the 


apostle says, ' I would have you know, that the 
head of every man is Christ, and the head of 
the woman is the man ; and the head of Christ 
is God.' Eph. 5: 23, is a parallel passage. 
1 For the husband is the head of the wife, even 
as Christ is the head of the Church.' The 
apostle closes his remarks on this subject, by 
observing-, ' This is a great mystery, but I speak 
concerning Christ and the Church.' I shall 
pass over this with simply remarking, that God 
and Christ are one. ' I and my Father are 
one,' and there can be no inferiority where 
there is no divisibility. The commentaries on 
this and similar texts, afford a striking illustra* 
tion of the ideas which men entertain of their 
own superiority, I shall subjoin Henry's re- 
marks on 1st Cor. II: 5, as a specimen : ' To 
understand this text, it must be observed, that 
it was a signification either of shame, or sub- 
jection, for persons to be veiled, or covered in 
Eastern countries ; contrary to the custom of 
ours, where the being bare-headed betokens 
subjection, and being covered superiority and 
dominion ; and this will help us the better to 
understand the reason on which he grounds his 
reprehension, ' Every man praying, &c. dishon- 
ored his head,' i. e. Christ, the head of every 
man, by appearing in a habit unsuitable to the 
rank in which God had placed him. The wo- 
man, on the other hand, that prays, &c. dishon- 
ored her head, i. e. the man. She appears in 
the dress of her superior, and throws off the 
token of her subjection ; she might with equal 
decency cut her hair short, or cut it off, the 
common dress of the man in that age. Anoth- 
er reason against this conduct was, that the man 
is the image and glory of God, the representa- 


tive of that glorious dominion and headship 
which God has over the world. It is the man 
who is set at the head of this lower creation, 
and therein bears the resemblance of God. 
The woman, on the other hand, is the glory of 
the man : she is his representative. Not but she 
has dominion over the inferior creatures, and 
she is a partaker of human nature, and so far is 
God's representative too, but it is at second 
hand She is the image of God, inasmuch as 
she is the image of the man. The man was 
first made, and made head of the creation here 
below, and therein the image of the divine do- 
minion ; and the woman was made out of the 
man, and shone with a reflection of his glory , 
being made superior to the other creatures here 
below, but in subjection to her husband, and de- 
riving that honor from him., out of whom she 
was made. The woman was made for the man 
to be his help meet, and not the man for the 
woman. She was, naturally, therefore, made 
subject to him, because made for him, for his 


We see in the above quotation, what degrad- 
ing views even good men entertain of women. 
Pity the Psalmist had not thrown a little light 
on this subject, when he was paraphrasing the 
account of man's creation. * Thou hast made 
him a little lower than the angels, and hast 
crowned him with glory and honor. Thou 
madest him to have dominion over the works of 
thy hands ; thou hast put all things under his 
feet.' Surely if woman had been placed below 
man, and was to shine only by a lustre borrow- 
ed from him, we should have some clear evi- 
dence of it in the sacred volume. Henry puts 
her exactly on a level with the beasts ; they 


were made for the use, help and comfort of 
man ; and according to this commentator, this 
was the whole end and design of the creation 
of woman. The idea that man, as man is su- 
perior to woman, involves an absurdity so gross, 
that I really wonder how any man of reflection 
can receive it as of divine origin ; and I can only 
account for it, by that passion for supremacy, 
which characterizes man as a corrupt and fall- 
en creature. If it be true that he is more, ex- 
cellent than she, as man, independent of \iis 
moral and intellectual powers, then every man 
is superior by virtue of his manship, to every 
woman. The man who sinks his moral capac- 
ities and spiritual powers in his sensual appe- 
tites, is still, as a man, simply by the con- 
formation of his body, a more dignified be- 
ing, than the woman whose intellectual powers 
are highly cultivated, and whose approximation 
to the character of Jesus Christ is exhibited in 
a blameless life and conversation. 

But it is strenuously urged by those, who are 
anxious to maintain their usurped authority, 
that wives are, in various passages of the New 
Testament, commanded to obey their husbands. 
Let us examine these texts. 

Eph. 5, 22. ' Wives, submit yourselves unto your own 
husbands as unto the Lord.' * As the church is subject unto 
Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every 

1 Col. 3, 18. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own hus- 
bands, as it is fit in the Lord.' 

1st Pet. 3, 2. ' Likewise ye wives, be in subjection to 
your own husbands; that it any obey not the word, they 
may also without the word be won by the conversation of 
the wives.' 

Accompanying all these directions to wives, 
are commands to husbands. 


Eph. 5> 25. ■ Husbands, love your wives even as Christ 
loved the Church, and gave himself for it.' ' So ought men 
to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his 
wife, loveth himself.' 

Col. 3, 19. ' Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter 
against them.' 

1st Pet. 3, 7. c Likewise ye husbands, dwell with them 
according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife as unto 
the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace 
of life.' 

I may just remark, in relation to the expres- 
sion ' weaker vessel,' that the word in the orig- 
inal has no reference to intellect : it refers to 
physical weakness merely. 

The apostles were writing to Christian con- 
verts, and laying down rules for their conduct 
towards their unconverted consorts. It no doubt 
frequently happened, that a husband or a wife 
would embrace Christianity, while their com- 
panions clung to heathenism, and husbands 
might be tempted to dislike and despise those, 
who pertinaciously adhered to their pagan su- 
perstitions. And wives who, when they were 
pagans, submitted as a matter of course to their 
heathen husbands, might be tempted knowing 
that they were superior as moral and religious 
characters, to assert that superiority, by paying 
less deference to them than heretofore. Let us 
examine the context of these passages, and see 
what are the grounds of the directions here 
given to husbands and wives. The whole 
epistle to the Ephesians breathes a spirit of love. 
The apostle beseeches the converts to walk 
worthy of the vocation wherewith they are 
called, with all lowliness and meekness, with 
long suffering, forbearing one another in love. 
The verse preceding 5, 22, is < SUBMITTING 
THE FEAR OF GOD.'' Colossians 3, from 


11 to 17, contains similar injunctions. The 
17th verse says, ' Whatsoever ye do in word, 
or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord 
Jesus.' Peter, after drawing a most touching 
picture of Christ's sufferings for us, and remind- 
ing the Christians, that he had left us an exam- 
ple that we should follow his steps, * who did 
no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,' 
exhorts wives to he in subjection, &c. 

From an attentive consideration of these pas- 
sages, and of those in which the same words 
'submit,' ' subjection,' are used, I cannot butbe- 
lieve that the apostles designed to recommend 
to wives, as they did to subjects and to servants, 
to carry out the holy principle laid down by 
Jesus Christ, ' Resist not evil.' And this with- 
out in the least acknowledging the right of the 
governors, masters, or husbands, to exercise the 
authority they claimed. The recognition of 
the existence of evils does not involve approba- 
tion of them. God tells the Israelites, he gave 
them a king in his wrath, but nevertheless as 
they chose to have a king, he laid down direc- 
tions for the conduct of that king, and had him 
anointed to reign over them. According to the 
generally received meaning of the passages I 
have quoted, they directly contravene the laws 
of God, as given in various parts of the Bible. 
Now I must understand the sacred Scriptures 
as harmonizing with themselves, or I cannot 
receive them as the word of God. The com- 
mentators on these passages exalt man to the 
station of a Deity in relation to woman. Clarke 
says, * As the Lord Christ is the head, or gov- 
ernor of the church, and the head of the man, 
so is the man the head, or governor of the wo- 
man. This is God's ordinance, and should not 


be transgressed. ' As unto the Lord.' The 
word church seems necessarily to be understood 
here : that is, act under the authority of your 
husbands, as the church acts under the author- 
ity of Christ. As the church submits to the 
Lord, so let wives submit to their husbands.' 
Henry goes even further — 'For the husband is 
the head of the wife. The metaphor is taken 
from the head in the natural body, which being 
the seat of reason, of wisdom and of knowledge, 
and the fountain of sense and motion, is more 
excellent than the rest of the body.' Now if 
God ordained man the governor of woman, he 
must be able to save her, and to answer in her 
stead for all those sins which she commits by 
his direction. Awful responsibility. Do hus- 
bands feel able and willing to bear it ? And 
what becomes of the solemn affirmation of Je- 
hovah ? ' Hear this, all ye people, give ear all 
ye inhabitants of the world, both low and high, 
rich and poor.' ' None can by any means re- 
deem his brother, or give to God a ransom for 
him, for the redemption of the soul is precious, 
and man cannot accomplish it. 1 — French Bible. 
Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Gkimke. 



Brookline, 9th Mo. 1837. 

My Dear Sister, — According to the princi- 
ple which I have laid down, that man and wo- 
man were created equal, and endowed by their 
beneficent Creator with the same intellectual 
powers and the same moral responsibilities, and 
that consequently whatever is morally right for 
a man to do, is morally right for a woman to 
do, it follows as a necessary corollary, that if it 
is the duty of man to preach the unsearchable 
riches of Christ, it is the duty also of woman. 

I am aware, that I have the prejudices of 
education and custom to combat, both in my 
own and the other sex, as well as ' the traditions 
of men,' which are taught for the command- 
ments of God. I feel that I have no sectarian 
views to advance ; for although among the 
Quakers, Methodists, and Christians, women 
are permitted to preach the glad tidings of peace 
and salvation, yet I know of no religious body, 
who entertain the Scripture doctrine of the 
perfect equality of man and woman, which is 
the fundamental principle of my argument in 
favor of the ministry of women. I wish sim- 


ply to throw my views before thee. If they 
are based on the immutable foundation of truth, 
they cannot be overthrown by unkind insinua- 
tions, bitter sarcasms, unchristian imputations, 
or contemptuous ridicule. These are weapons 
which are unworthy of a good cause. If I am 
mistaken, as truth only can prevail, my suppos- 
ed errors will soon vanish before her beams ; 
but I am persuaded that woman is not filling the 
high and holy station which God allotted to 
her, and that in consequence of her having 
been driven from her ' appropriate sphere,' both 
herself and her brethren have suffered an in- 
finity of evils. 

Before I proceed to prove, that woman is 
bound to preach the gospel, I will examine the 
ministry under the Old Testament dispensa- 
tion. Those who were called to this office were 
known under various names. Enoch, who 
prophesied, is designated as walking with God. 
Noah is called a preacher of righteousness. 
They were denominated men of God, seers, 
prophets, but they all had the same great work 
to perform, viz. to turn sinners from the error of 
their ways, This ministry existed previous to 
the institution of the Jewish priesthood, and 
continued after its abolition. It has nothing to 
do ivith ike priesthood. It was rarely, as far as 
the Bible informs us, exercised by those of the 
tribe, of Levi, and was common to all the people, 
women as well as men. It differed essentially 
from the priesthood, because there was no com- 
pensation received for calling the people to re- 
pentance. Such a thing as paying a prophet 
for preaching the truth of God is not even men- 
tioned. They were called of Jehovah to go 
forth in his name, one from his plough, another 


from gathering of sycamore fruit, &c. &c. Let 
us for a moment imagine Jeremiah, when God 
says to him, ' Gird up thy loins, and arise and 
speak unto the people all that I command thee,' 
replying to Jehovah, ' I will preach repentance 
to the people, if they will give me gold, but if 
they will not pay me for the truth, then let them 
perish in their sins.' Now, this is virtually the 
language of the ministers of the present day ; 
and I believe the secret of the exclusion of wo- 
men from the ministerial office is, that that 
office has been converted into one of emolu- 
ment, of honor, and of power. Any attentive 
observer cannot fail to perceive, that as far as 
possible, all such offices are reserved by men 
for themselves. 

The common error that Christian ministers 
are the successors of the priests, is founded in 
mistake. In the particular directions given to 
Moses to consecrate Aaron and his sons to the 
office of the priesthood, their duties are clearly 
defined : see Ex. 28th, 29th and 30th chap. 
There is no commission to Aaron to preach to 
the people ; his business was to offer sacrifice. 
Now why were sacrifices instituted? They 
were types of that one great sacrifice, which in 
the fulness of time was offered up through the 
eternal Spirit without spot to God. Christ as- 
sumed the office of priest ; he ' offered him- 
self,' and by so doing, abolished forever the or- 
der of the priesthood, as well as the sacrifices 
which the priests were ordained to offer.^ 

* I cannot enter fully into this part of my subject. It is, 
however, one of great importance, and I recommend those 
who wish to examine it, to read * The Book of the Priest- 
hood, ' by an English Dissenter, and Beverly's ' View of the 
Present State of the Visible Church of Christ.' They are 
both masterly productions. 


But it may be inquired, whether the priests 
were not to teach the people. As far as I can 
discover from the Bible, they were simply com- 
manded to read the law to the people. There 
was no other copy that we know of, until the 
time of the kings, who were to writ? out a copy 
for their own use. As it was deposited in the 
ark, the priests were required, ' When all Israel 
is come to appear before the Lord thy God in 
the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read 
this law before all Israel in their hearing. 
Gather the people together, men, women, and 
children, that they may hear,' Deut. 31 : 9 — 
33. See also Lev. 10: 11, Deut. 33 : 10, 2d 
Chr. 17 : 7 — 9, and numerous other passages. 
When God is enumerating the means he has 
"used to call his people to repentance, he never, 
as far as I can discover, speaks of sending his 
priests to warn them ; but in various passages 
we find language similar to this : ' Since the day 
that your fathers came forth out of the land of 
Egypt unto this day, I have even sent unto you 
all my servants, the prophets, daily rising up 
early and sending them. Yet they hearkened 
not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but harden.- 
de their neck ; they did worse than their fath- 
ers.' Jer. 7 : 25, 26. See also, 25 : 4. 2 Chr. 
36 : 15. and parallel passages. God says, Is. 
9: 15, 16. ' The prophet that teacheth lies, he 
is the tail ; for the leaders of this people cause 
them to err.' The distinction between priests 
and prophets is evident from their being men- 
tioned as two classes. ' The prophets prophesy 
falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means,' 
Jer. 5 : 31. See also, Ch. 2 : 8. 8 :1— 10. and 
many others. 

That women were called to the prophetic 


office, I believe is universally admitted. Miriam, 
Deborah and Huldah were prophetesses. The 
judgments of the Lord are denounced by Eze- 
kiel on false prophetesses, as well as false 
prophets. And if Christian ministers are, as I 
apprehend, successors of the prophets, and not 
of the priests, then of course, women are now 
called to that office as well as men, because God 
has no where withdrawn from them the privi- 
lege of doing what is the great business of 
preachers, viz. to point the penitent sinner to 
the Redeemer, ' Behold the Lamb of God, 
which taketh away the sins of the world.' 

It is often triumphantly inquired, why, if 
men and women are on an equality, are not 
women as conspicuous in the Bible as men ? 
I do not intend to assign a reason, but I think 
one may readily be found in the fact, that from 
the days of Eve to the present time, the aim 
of man has been to crush her. He has accom- 
plished this work in various ways ; sometimes 
by brute force, sometimes by making her sub- 
servient to his worst passions, sometimes by 
treating her as a doll, and while he excluded 
from her mind the light of knowledge, decked 
her person with gewgaws and frippery which 
he scorned for himself, thus endeavoring to 
render her like unto a painted sepulchre. 

It is truly marvellous that any woman can 
rise above the pressure of circumstances which 
combine to crush her. Nothing can strengthen 
her to do this in the character of a preacher of 
righteousness, but a call from Jehovah himself. 
And when the voice of God penetrates the deep 
recesses of her heart, and commands her to go 
and cry in the ears of the people, she is ready 
to exclaim, * Ah, Lord God, behold I cannot 


speak, for I am a woman. 1 I have known wo- 
men in different religious societies, who have 
felt like the prophet. ' His word was in my 
heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, 
and I was weary with forbearing.' But they 
have not dared to open their lips, and have en- 
dured all the intensity of suffering, produced by 
disobedience to God, rather than encounter 
heartless ridicule and injurious suspicions. I 
rejoice that we have been the oppressed, rather 
than the oppressors. God thus prepared his 
people for deliverance from outward bondage ; 
and I hope our sorrows have prepared us to ful- 
fil our high and holy duties, whether public or 
private, with humility and meekness ; and that 
suffering has imparted fortitude to endure trials, 
which assuredly await us in the attempt to sun- 
der those chains with which man has bound us, 
galling to the spirit, though unseen by the eye. 

Surely there is nothing either astonishing or 
novel in the gifts of the Spirit being bestowed 
on woman : nothing astonishing, because there 
is no respect of persons with God ; the soul of 
the woman in his sight is as the soul of the 
man, and both are alike capable of the influence 
of the Holy Spirit. Nothing novel, because, as 
has been already shown, in the sacred records 
there are found examples of women, as well as 
of men, exercising the gift of prophecy. 

We attach to the word prophecy, the exclu- 
sive meaning of foretelling future events, but 
this is certainly a mistake ; for the apostle Paul 
defines it to be ' speaking to edification, exhor- 
tation and comfort.' And there appears no 
possible reason, why women should not do this 
as well as men. At the time that the Bible 
was translated into English, the meaning of the 



word prophecy, was delivering a message from 
God, whether it was to predict future events, or 
to warn the people of the consequences of sin. 
Governor Winthrop, of Massachusetts, men- 
tions in a letter, that the minister being absent, 

he went to, to prophecy to the people. 

Before I proceed to prove that women, under 
the Christian dispensation, were anointed of the 
Holy Ghost to preach, or prophecy, I will men- 
tion Anna, the (last) prophetess under the Jew- 
ish dispensation. ' She departed not from the 
temple, but served God with fasting and prayers 
night and day.' And coming into the temple, 
while Simeon was yet speaking to Mary, with 
the infant Savior in his arms, ' spake of Christ 
to all them that looked for redemption in Jeru- 
salem.' Blackwall, a learned English critic, in 
his work entitled, ' Sacred Classics,' says, in 
reference to this passage, Luke 2 ; 37 — c Ac- 
cording to the original reading, the sense will 
be, that the devout Anna, who attended in the 
temple, both night and day, spoke of the Mes- 
siah to all the inhabitants of that city, who 
constantly worshipped there, and who prepared 
themselves for the worthy reception of that di- 
vine person, whom they expected at this time. 
And 'tis certain, that other devout Jews, not in- 
habitants of Jerusalem, frequently repaired to 
the temple-worship, and might, at this remark- 
able time, and several others, hear this admira- 
ble woman discourse upon the blessed advent 
of the Redeemer. A various reading has Israel 
instead of Jerusalem, which expresses that re- 
ligious Jews, from distant places, came thither 
to divine offices, and would with high pleasure 
hear the discourses of this great prophetess, so 
famed for her extraordinary piety and valuable 


talents, upon the most important and desirable 

I shall now examine the testimony of the 
Bible on this point, after the ascension of our 
Lord, beginning with the glorious effusion of 
the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. I 
presume it will not be denied, that women, as 
well as men, were at that time filled with the 
Holy Ghost, because it is expressly stated, that 
women were among those who continued in 
prayer and supplication, waiting for the fulfil- 
ment of the promise, that they should be endu- 
ed with power from on high. ' When the day 
of Pentecost was fully come, they were all 
with one accord in one place. And there ap- 
peared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, 
and it sat upon each of them ; and they were 
all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to 
speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave 
them utterance.' Peter says, in reference to 
this miracle, ' This is that which was spoken 
by the prophet Joel. And it shall corne to pass 
in the last days, said God, I will pour out my 
Spirit upon all flesh ; and your sons and your 
daughters shall prophesy— and on my servants 
and on my hand-maidens, I will pour out in 
those days of my Spirit, and they shall proph- 
esy.' There is not the least intimation that 
this was a spasmodic influence which was soon 
to cease: The men and women are classed to- 
gether ; and if the power to preach the gospel 
was a supernatural and short-lived impulse in 
women, then it was equally so in men. But 
we are told, those were the days of miracles. 
I grant it; but the men, equally with the wo- 
men, were the subjects of this marvellous ful- 
filment of prophecy, and of course, if women 


have lost the gift of prophesying, so have men. 
We are also gravely told, that if a woman pre- 
tends to inspiration, and thereupon grounds the 
right to plead the cause of a crucified Redeem- 
er in public, she will be believed when she 
shows credentials from heaven, i. e. when she 
works a miracle. I reply, if this be necessary 
to prove her right to preach the gospel, then I 
demand of my brethren to show me their cre- 
dentials ; else I cannot receive their ministry, 
by their own showing. John Newton has just- 
ly said, that no power but that which created a 
world, can make a minister of the gospel ; and 
man may task his ingenuity to the utmost, to 
prove that this power is not exercised on wo- 
men as well as men. He cannot do it until he 
has first disclaimed that simple, but all compre- 
hensive truth, ■ in Christ Jesus there is neither 
male nor female.' 

Women then, according to the Bible, were, 
under the New Testament dispensation, as well 
as the Old, the recipients of the gift of proph- 
ecy. That this is no sectarian view may be 
proved by the following extracts. The first I 
shall offer is from Stratton's ' Book of the 

' While they were assembled in the wpper room to wait 
for the blessing, in number about one hundred and twenty, 
they received the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit's 
grace ; they became the channels through which its more 
ordinary, but not less saving streams flowed to three thous- 
and persons in one day. The whole company of the assem- 
bled disciples, mate and female, young and old, were all 
filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other 
tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. They all con- 
tributed in producing that impression upon the assembled 
multitude, which Peter was instrumental in advancing to its 
decisive results.' 


Scott, in his commentary on this passage, 

-says — 

'At the same time, there appeared the form of tongues 
divided at the tip and resembling tire; one of which rested 
on each of the whole company.' • They sat on everyone 
present, as the original determines. At the time of these 
extraordinary appearances, the whole company were abun- 
dantly replenished with the gifts and graces of the Holy 
Spirit, so that they began to speak with other tongues.' 

Henry in his notes confirms this : 

< It seems evident to me that not the twelve apostles only, 
but afl the one hundred and twenty disciples were filled with 
the Holy Ghost alike at this time, — all the seventy disciples, 
who were apostolical men and employed in the same work* 
and all the rest too that were to preach the gospel, (or it is 
said expressly, Eph. 4: 8 — 12: 'When Christ ascended up 
on high, (which refers to this) he gave gifts unto men.' The 
afil here must refer to the all that were together.' 

I need hardly remark that man is a generic 
term, including both sexes. 

Let ns now examine whether women actual- 
ly exercised the office of minister, under the 
gospel dispensation. Philip had four daughters, 
who prophesied or preached. Paul calls Pris- 
cilla, as well as Aquila, his helpers ; or, as in 
the Greek, his fellow laborers^ in Christ Jesus. 
Divers other passages might be adduced to 
prove that women continued to be preachers, 
and that many of tkem filled this dignified sta- 

We learn also from ecclesiastical history, 
that female ministers suffered martyrdom in the 
early ages of the Christian church. In ancient 
councils, mention is made of deaconesses ; and 
in an edition of the New Testament, printed m 
1574, a woman is spoken of as minister of a 

* Rom. 16 : 3, compare Gr. text o( v. 21, 2. Cor. 8 : 
23; Phil. 2: 25; 1 Thes. 3: 2. 


church. The same word, which, in our com- 
mon translation, is now rendered a servant of 
the church, in speaking of Phebe, Kom. 16 : 1, 
is rendered minister, Eph. 6 : 21, when applied 
to Tychicus. A minister, with whom I had 
lately the pleasure of conversing, remarked, 
* My rule is to expound scripture by scripture, 
and I cannot deny the ministry of women, be- 
cause the apostle says, ' help those women who 
labored with me in the gospel.' He certainly 
meant something more than pouring out tea for 

In the 11th Ch. of 1 Cor., Paul gives direc- 
tions to women and men how they should ap- 
pear when they prophesy, or pray in public as- 
semblies. It is evident that the design of the 
apostle, in this and the three succeeding chap- 
ters, is to rectify certain abuses which had crept 
into the Christian church. He therefore ad- 
monishes women to pray with their heads cov- 
ered, because, according to the fashion of that 
day, it was considered immodest and immoral 
to do otherwise. He says, * that were all one 
as if she were shaven ; " and shaving the head 
was a disgraceful punishment that was inflict- 
ed on women of bad character. 

' These things,' says Scott, * the apostle stated as- decent 
and proper, but if any of the Corinthian teachers inclined 
to excite contention about them, he would only add, v. 16, 
that he and his brethren knew of no such custom as prevail- 
ed among them, nor was there any such in the churches of 
God which had been planted by the other apostles.* 

John Locke, whilst engaged in writing his 
notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, was at a 
meeting where two women preached. After 
hearing them, he became convinced of their 
commission to publish the gospel, and thereupon 


altered his notes on the 11th Ch. 1 Cor. in fa- 
vor of women's preaching. He says, — 

* This about women seeming as difficult a passage as most 
in St. haul's Epistles, I crave leave to premise some few 
considerations. It is plain that this covering the head in 
women is restrained to some peculiar actions which they 
performed in the assembly, expressed by the words praying, 
prophesying, which, whatever they signify, must have the 
same meaning applied to women in the 5th verse, that they 
have when applied to men in the 4th, &c. The next thing 
to be considered is, what is here to be understood by pray- 
ing and prophesying. And that seems to me the performing 
of some public action in the assembly, by some one person 
which was for that time peculiar to that person, and whilst 
it lasted, the rest of the assembly silently assisted. As to 
prophesying, the apostle in express words tells us, Ch. 14: 
3, 12, that it was speaking in the assembly. The same is 
evident as to praying, that the apostle means by it publicly 
with an audible voice, ch. 14 : 19.' 

In a letter to these two women, Eebecca Col- 
lier and Rachel Bracken, which accompanied a 
little testimony of his regard* he says, 

* I admire no converse like that of Christian freedom; 
and I fear no bondage like that of pride and prejudice. I 
now see that acquaintance by sight cannot reach the height 
of enjoyment, which acquaintance by knowledge arrives 
unto. Outward hearing may misguide us, but internal know- 
ledge cannot err.' ■ Women, indeed, had the honor of first 
publishing the resurrection of the God of love — why not 
again the resurrection of the spirit of love 1 And let all the 
disciples of Christ rejoice therein, as doth your partner, 
John Locke.' 

See ' The Frien;!,' a periodical published in 

Adam Clarke's comment on 1 Cor. 11 : 5, is 
similar to Locke's : 

* Whatever be the meaning of praying and prophesying 
in respect to the man, they have precisely the same mean- 
inc in respect to the woman. So that some women at least, 
as well as some men, might speak to others to edification 
and exhortation and comfort. And this kind of prophesy- 
ing, or teaching, was predicted by Joel 2 : 28, and referred 


to by Peter; and had there not been such gifts bestowed on 
women, the prophesy could not have had it* fulfilment.' 

In the autobiography of Adam Clarke, there 
is an interesting account of his hearing* Mary 
Sewall and another female minister preach, and 
he acknowledges that such was the power ac- 
companying their ministry, that though he had 
been prejudiced against women's preaching, he 
could not but confess that these women were 
anointed for the office. 

But there are certain passages in the Epistles 
of St. Paul, which seem to be of doubtful in- 
terpretation ; at which we cannot much marvel, 
seeing that his brother Peter says, there are 
some things in them hard to be understood. 
Most commentators, having their minds preoc- 
cupied with the prejudices of education, afford 
little aid ; they rather tend to darken the text 
by the multitude of words. One of these pas- 
sages occurs in 1 Cor. 14. I have already re- 
marked, that this chapter, with several of the 
preceding, was evidently designed to correct 
abuses which had crept into the assemblies of 
Christians in Corinth. Hence we find that the 
men were commanded to be silent, as well as the 
women, when they were guilty of any thing 
which deserved reprehension. The apostle 
says, ' If there be no interpreter, let him keep 
silence in the church.' The men were doubt- 
less in the practice of speaking in unknown 
tongues, when there was no interpreter present ; 
and Paul reproves them, because this kind of 
preaching conveyed no instruction to the peo- 
ple. Again he says, ' If any thing be revealed 
to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his 
peace.' We may infer from this, that two men 


sometimes attempted to speak at the same time, 
and the apostle rebukes them,and adds, ' Ye may 
all prophesy one by one, for God is not the au- 
thor of confusion, but of peace.* He then pro- 
ceeds to notice the disorderly conduct of the 
women, who were guilty of other improprieties. 
They were probably in the habit of asking 
questions, on any points of doctrine which they 
wished more thoroughly explained. This cus- 
tom was common among the men in the Jewish 
synagogues, after the pattern of which, the 
meetings of the early Christians were in all 
probability conducted. And the Christian wo- 
men, presuming on the liberty which they en- 
joyed under the new religion, interrupted the 
assembly, by asking questions. The apostle 
disapproved of this, because it disturbed the so- 
lemnity of the meeting: he therefore admon- 
ishes the women to keep silence in the church- 
es. That the apostle did not allude to preaching 
is manifest, because he tells them, ' If they will 
learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at 
home.' Now a person endowed with a gift in 
the ministry, does not ask questions in the pub- 
lic exercise of that gift, for the purpose of gain- 
ing information : she is instructing others. 
Moreover, the apostle, in closing his remarks 
on this subject, says, ' Wherefore, brethren, (a 
generic term, applying equally to men and wo- 
men,) covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak, 
with tongues. Let all things be done decently 
and in order.' / 

Clarke, on the passage, ' Let women keep si- 
lence in the churches,' says : 

'This was a Jewish ordinance. Women were not per- 
mitted to teach in the assemblies, or even to ask questions 
The rabbins taught that a woman should know nothing bu 


the use of her distaff; and the saying of Rabbi Eliezer is 
worthy of remark and execration: 'Let the words of the 
law be burned, rather than that they should be delivered by 

Are there not many of our Christian breth- 
ren, whose hostility to the ministry of women 
is as bitter as was that of Rabbi Eliezer, and 
who would rather let souls perish, than that the 
truths of the gospel should be delivered by 
women ? 

* This,' says Clarke, ' was their condition till the time of 
the gospel, when, according to the prediction of Joel, the 
Spirit of God was to be poured out on the women as well as 
the men, that they might prophesy, that is, teach. And that 
they did prophesy, or teach, is evident from what the apos- 
tle says, ch. 11 : 5, where he lays down rules to regulate this 
part of their conduct while ministering in the church. But 
does not what the apostle says here, let your women keep si- 
lence in the churches, contradict that statement, and show 
that the words in ch. 11, should be understood in another 
sense 1 for here it is expressly said, that they should keep 
silence in the churches, for it was not permitted to a woman 
to speak. Both places seem perfectly consistent. It is ev- 
ident from the context, that the apostle refers here to asking 
questions, and what we call dictating in the assemblies.' 

The other passage on which the opinion, that 
women are not called to the ministry, is found- 
ed, is 1 Tim. 2d ch. The apostle speaks of 
the duty of prayer and supplication, mentions 
his own ordination as a preacher, and then 
adds, ' I will, therefore, that men pray every- 
where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and 
doubting. In like manner also, that women 
adorn themselves in modest apparel,' &c. I 
shall here premise, that as the punctuation and 
division into chapters and verses is no part of 
the original arrangement, they cannot deter- 
mine the sense of a passage. Indeed, every at- 
tentive reader of the Bible must observe, that 
the injudicious separation of sentences often 


destroys their meaning and their beauty. Jo- 
seph John Gurney, whose skill as a biblical 
critic is well known in England, commenting 
on this passage, says, 

' It is worded in a manner somewhat obscure; but ap- 
pears to be best construed according to the opinion of va- 
rious commentators (See Pool's Synopsis) as conveying an 
injunction, that women as well as men should pray every- 
where, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. 
1 Tim. 2 : 8, 9. * I will therefore that men pray everywhere, 
&c. ; likewise also the women in a modest dress.' (Com- 
pare 1 Cor. 11 : 5.) * 1 would have them adorn themselves 
with shamefacedness and sobriety.' ' 

I have no doubt this is the true meaning of 
the text, and that the translators would never 
have thought of altering it had they not been 
under the influence of educational prejudice. 
The apostle proceeds to exhort the women, who 
thus publicly made intercession to God, not to 
adorn themselves with braided hair, or gold, or 
pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh 
women professing godliness) with good works.' 
The word in this verse translated ' professing/ 
would be more properly rendered preaching 
godliness, or enjoining piety to the gods, or 
conducting public worship. After describing 
the duty of female ministers about their appar- 
el, the apostle proceeds to correct some impro- 
prieties which probably prevailed in the Ephe- 
sian church, similar to those which he had re- 
proved among the Corinthian converts. He 
says, ' Let the women learn in silence with 
all subjection ; but I suffer not a woman to 
teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but 
to be in silence,' or quietness. Here again it is 
evident that the women, of whom he was 
speaking, were admonished to learn in silence, 
which could not refer to their public ministra- 


tions to others. The verb to teach, verse 12, is 
one of very general import, and may in this 
place more properly be rendered dictate. It is 
highly probable that women who had long been 
in bondage, when set free by Christianity from 
the restraints imposed upon them by Jewish 
traditions and heathen customs, run into an ex- 
treme in their public assemblies, and interrupted 
the religious services by frequent interrogations, 
which they could have had answered as satis- 
factorily at home. 

On a candid examination and comparison of 
the passages which I have endeavored to ex- 
plain, viz., 1 Cor. chaps. 11 and 14, and 1 Tim. 
2, 8 — 12. I think we must be compelled to 
adopt one of two conclusions ; either that the 
apostle grossly contradicts himself on a subject 
of great practical importance, and that the ful- 
filment of the prophecy of Joel was a shameful 
infringement of decency and order ; or that the 
directions given to women, not to speak, or to 
teach in the congregations, had reference to 
some local and peculiar customs, whicluvvere 
then common in religious assemblies, and which 
the apostle thought inconsistent with the pur- 
pose for which they were met together. No 
one, I suppose, will hesitate which of these two 
conclusions to adopt. The 1 subject is one of 
vital importance. That it may claim the calm 
and prayerful attention of Christians, is the de- 
sire of 

Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 



Uzbridge, 10th Mo. 20th, 1837. 

My Dear Sister, — It is said that ' modern 
Jewish women light a lamp every Friday even- 
ing, half an hour before sunset, which is the 
beginning of their Sabbath, in remembrance of 
their original mother, who first extinguished the 
lamp of righteousness, — to remind them of their 
obligation to rekindle it.' I am one of those 
who always admit, to its fullest extent, the pop- 
ular charge, that woman brought sin into the 
world. I accept it as a powerful reason, why 
woman is bound to labor with double diligence, 
for the regeneration of that world she has been 
instrumental in ruining. 

But, although I do not repel the imputation, 
I shall notice some passages in the sacred 
Scriptures, where this transaction is mentioned, 
which prove, I think, the identity and equality 
of man and woman, and that there is no differ- 
ence in their guilt in the view of that God who 
searcheth the heart and trieth the reins of the 
children of men. In Is. 43 : 27, we find the 
following passage—* Thy first father hath sin- 


ned, and thy teachers have transgressed against 
me ' — which is synonymous with Rom. 5 : 12. 

* Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the 
world, and death by sin, &c.' Here man and 
woman are included under one term, and no 
distinction is made in their criminality. The 
circumstances of the fall are again referred to 
in 2 Cor. 11 : 3 — ' But I fear lest, by any means, 
as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtil- 
ity, so your mind should be beguiled from the 
simplicity that is in Christ.' Again, 1st Tim. 
2 : 14 — ' Adam was not deceived ; but the wo- 
man being deceived, was in the transgression.' 
Now, whether the fact, that Eve was beguiled 
and deceived, is a proof that her crime was of 
deeper dye than Adam's, who was not deceiv- 
ed, but was fully aware of the consequences of 
sharing in her transgression, I shall leave the 
candid reader to determine. 

My present object is to show, that, as woman 
is charged with all the sin that exists in the 
world, it is her solemn duty to labor for its ex- 
tinction ; and that this she can never do effect- 
ually and extensively, until her mind is disen- 
thralled of those shackles which have been riv- 
eted upon her by a ' corrupt public opinion, and 
a perverted interpretation of the holy Scrip- 
tures.' Woman must feel that she is the equal, 
and is designed to be the fellow laborer of her 
brother, or she will be studying to find out the 
imaginary line which separates the sexes, and 
divides the duties of men and women into two 
distinct classes, a separation not even hinted at 
in the Bible, where we are expressly told, 

* there is neither male nor female, for ye are all 
one in Christ Jesus.' 

My views on this subject are so much better 


embodied in the language of a living author 
than I can express them, that I quote the pas- 
sage entire : ' Woman's rights and man's rights 
are both contained in the same charter, and held 
by the same tenure. All rights spring out of 
the moral nature : they are both the root and 
the offspring of responsibilities. The physical 
constitution is the mere instrument of the mor- 
al nature ; sex is a mere incident of this con- 
stitution, a provision necessary to this form 
of existence ; its only design, not to give, nor 
to take away, nor in any respect to modify or 
even touch rights or responsibilities in any sense, 
except so far as the peculiar offices of each sex 
may afford less or more opportunity and ability 
for the exercise of rights, and the discharge of 
responsibilities ; but merely to continue and en- 
large the human department of God's govern- 
ment. Consequently, I know nothing of man's 
rights, or woman's rights ; human rights are all 
that I recognise. The doctrine, that the sex of 
the body presides over and administers upon the 
rights and responsibilities of the moral, immor- 
tal nature, is to my mind a doctrine kindred to 
blasphemy, when seen in its intrinsic nature. 
It breaks up utterly the relations of the two na- 
tures, and reverses their functions ; exalting the 
animal nature into a monarch, and humbling 
the moral into a slave ; making the former a 
proprietor, and the latter its property.' 

To perform our duties, we must comprehend 
our rights and responsibilities; and it is because 
we do not understand, that we now fall so far 
short in the discharge of our obligations. Un- 
accustomed to think for ourselves, and to search 
the sacred volume, to see how far we are living 
up to the design of Jehovah in our creation, we 


have rested satisfied with the sphere marked 
out for us by man, never detecting the fallacy 
of that reasoning which forbids woman to exer- 
cise some of her noblest faculties, and stamps 
with the reproach of indelicacy those actions by 
which women were formerly dignified and ex- 
alted in the church. 

I should not mention this subject again, if it 
were not to point out to my sisters what seems 
to me an irresistible conclusion from the literal 
interpretation of St. Paul, without reference to 
the context, and the peculiar circumstances and 
abuses which drew forth the expressions, ' I 
suffer not a woman to teach ' — ' Let your wo- 
men keep silence in the church,' i. e. congrega- 
tion. It is manifest, that if the apostle meant 
what his words imply, when taken in the strict- 
est sense, then women have no right to teach 
Sabbath or day schools, or to open their lips to 
sing in the assemblies of the people ; yet young 
and delicate women are engaged in all these 
offices ; they are expressly trained to exhibit 
themselves, and raise their voices to a high 
pitch in the choirs of our places of worship. I 
do not intend to sit in judgment on my sisters 
for doing these things ; I only want them to 
see, that they are as really infringing a suppos- 
ed divine command, by instructing their pupils 
in the Sabbath or day schools, and by singing 
in the congregation, as if they were engaged in 
preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to 
a lost and perishing world. Why, then, are w r e 
permitted to break this injunction in some points, 
and so seduously warned not to overstep the 
bounds set for us by our brethren in another ? 
Simply, as I believe, because in the one case 
we subserve their views and their interests, and 


act in subordination to them; whilst in the 
other, we come in contact with their interests, 
and claim to be on an equality with them in the 
highest and most important trust ever commit- 
ted to man, namely, the ministry of the word. 
It is manifest, that if women were perm u led to 
be ministers of the gospel, as they unquestion- 
ably were in the primitive ages of the Christian 
church, it would interfere materially with the 
present organized system of spiritual power and 
ecclesiastical authority, which is now vested 
solely in the hands of men. It would either 
show that all the paraphernalia of theological 
seminaries, &c. &c. to prepare men to become 
evangelists, is wholly unnecessary, or it would 
create a necessity for similar institutions in or- 
der to prepare women for the same office ; and 
this would be an encroachment on that learning, 
which our hind brethren have so ungenerously 
monopolized. I do not ask any one to believe 
my statements, or adopt my conclusions, because 
they are mine ; but I do earnestly entreat my 
sisters to lay aside their prejudices, and exam- 
ine these subjects for themselves, regardless of 
the * traditions of men,' because they are inti- 
mately connected with their duty and their use- 
fulness in the present important crisis. 
* All who know any thing of the present sys- 
tem of benevolent and religious operations, 
know that women are performing an important 
part in them, in subserviency to men, who guide 
our labors, and are often the recipients of those 
benefits of education we toil to confer, and 
which we rejoice they can enjoy, although it is 
their mandate which deprives us of the same 
advantages. Now, whether our brethren have 
defrauded us intentionally, or unintentionally, 


the wrong we suffer is equally the same. For 
years, they have been spurring us up to the 
performance of our duties. The immense use- 
fulness a ad the vast influence of woman have 
been eulogized and called into exercise, and 
many a blessing has been lavished upon us, and 
many a prayer put up for us, because we have 
labored by day and by night to clothe and feed 
and educate young men, whilst our own bodies 
sometimes suffer for want of comfortable gar- 
ments, and our minds are left in almost utter 
destitution of that improvement which we are 
toiling to bestow upon the brethren. 

1 Full many a gem of purest ray serene, 
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear; 

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen 
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.' 

If the sewing societies, the avails of whose 
industry are now expended in supporting and 
educating young men for the ministry, were to 
withdraw their contributions to these objects, 
and give them where they are more needed, to 
the advancement of their own sex in useful 
learning, the next generation might furnish 
sufficient proof, that in intelligence and ability 
to master the whole circle of sciences, woman 
is not inferior to man ; and instead of a sensible 
woman being regarded as she now is, is a hisses 
naturae, they would be quite as common as sen- 
sible men. I confess, considering the high 
claim men in this country make to great polite- 
ness and deference to women, it does seem a 
little extraordinary that we should be urged to 
work for the brethren. I should suppose it 
would be more in character with ' the generous 
promptings of chivalry, and the poetry of ro- 
mantic gallantry,' for which Catherine E. 


Beecher gives them credit, for them to form so- 
cieties to educate their sisters, seeing our infe- 
rior capacities require more cultivation to bring 
them into use, and qualify us to be helps meet 
for them. ^However, though I think this would 
be but a just return for all our past kindnesses 
in this way, I should be willing to balance our 
accounts, and begin a new course. Henceforth, 
let the benefit be reciprocated, or else let each 
sex provide for the education of their own poor, 
whose talents ought to be rescued from the ob- 
livion qf ignorance. Sure I am, the young 
men who are now benefitted by the handy work 
of their sisters, will not be less honorable if they 
occupy half their time in earning enough to pay 
for their own education, instead of depending 
on the industry of women, who not unfrequent- 
ly deprive themselves of the means of purchas- 
ing valuable books which might enlarge their 
stock of useful knowledge, and perhaps prove a 
blessing to the family by furnishing them with 
instructive reading. If the minds of women 
were enlightened and improved, the domestie 
circle would be more frequently refreshed by 
intelligent conversation, a means of edification 
now deplorably neglected, for want of that cul- 
tivation which these intellectual advantages 
would confer. 


One of the duties which devolve upon women 
in the present interesting crisis, is to prepare 
themselves for more extensive usefulness, by 
making use of those religious and literary priv- 
ileges and advantages that are within their 
reach, if they will only stretch out their hands 
and possess them. By doing this, they will 


become better acquainted with theiF rights as 
moral beings, and with their responsibilities 
growing; out of those rights : they will regard 
themselves, as they really are, free agents, 
immortal beings, amenable to no tribunal but 
that of Jehovah, and bound not to submit to any 
restriction imposed for selfish purposes, or to 
gratify that love of power which has reigned in 
the heart of man from Adam down to the pres- 
ent time. In contemplating the great moral re- 
formations of the day, and the part which they 
are bound to take in them, instead of puzzling 
themselves with the harassing, because unne- 
cessary inquiry, how far they may go without 
overstepping the bounds of propriety, which 
separate male and female duties, they will only 
inquire, ' Lord, what wilt thou have us to do ? * 
They will be enabled to see the simple truth, 
that God has made no distinction between men 
and women as moral beings ; that the distinc- 
tion now so much insisted upon between male 
and female virtues is as absurd as it is unscrip- 
tural, and has been the fruitful source of much 
mischief— granting to man a license for the ex- 
hibition of brute force and conflict on the battle 
field ; forst ernness, selfishness, and the exercise 
of irresponsible power in the circle of home — 
and to woman a permit to rest on an arm of 
flesh, and to regard modesty and delicacy, and 
all the kindred virtues, as peculiarly appropriate 
to her. Now to me it is perfectly clear, that 


do ; and that confusion must exist in the moral 
world, until women takes her stand on the same 
platform with man, and feels that she is clothed 


by her Maker with the same rights, and, of 
course, that upon her devolve the same duties. 

It is not my intention, nor indeed do I think 
it is in my power, to point out the precise du- 
ties of women. To him who still teacheth by 
his Holy Spirit as never man taught, I refer my 
beloved sisters. There is a vast field of use- 
fulness before them. The signs of the times 
give portentous evidence, that a day of deep 
trial is approaching ; and I urge them, by 
every consideration of a Savior's dying love, 
by the millions of heathen in our midst, by the 
sufferings of woman in almost every portion of 
the world, by the fearful ravages which slave- 
ry, intemperance, licentiousness and other ini- 
quities are making of the happiness of our 
fellow creatures, to come to the rescue of a 
ruined world, and to be found co-workers with 
Jesus Christ. 

* Ho ! to the rescue, ho ! 

Up every one that feels — 
'Tis a sad and fearful cry of woe 

From a guilty world that steals. 
Hark ! hark! how the horror rolls, 

Whence can this anguish be % 
'Tis the groan of a trammel'd people's souls, 

Now bursting to be free.' 

And here, with all due deference for the of- 
fice of the ministry, which I believe was estab- 
lished by Jehovah himself, and designed by 
Him to be the means of spreading light and 
salvation through a crucified Savior to the ends 
of the earth, I would entreat my sisters not to 
compel the ministers of the present day to give 
their names to great moral reformations. The 
practice of making ministers life members, or 
officers of societies, when their hearts have not 
been touched with a live coal from the altar, 


and animated with love for the work we are 
engaged in, is highly injurious to them, as well 
as to the cause. They often satisfy their con- 
sciences in this way, without doing anything to 
promote the anti-slavery, or temperance, or oth- 
er reformations ; and we please ourselves with 
the idea, that we have done something to for- 
ward the cause of Christ, when, in effect, we 
have been sewing pillows like the false proph- 
etesses of old under the arm-holes of our cler- 
ical brethren. Let us treat the ministers with 
all tenderness and respect, but let us be careful 
how we cherish in their hearts the idea that 
they are of more importance to a cause than 
other men. I rejoice when they take hold 
heartily. I love and honor some ministers with 
whom I have been associated in the anti-slavery 
ranks, but I do deeply deplore, for the sake of the 
cause, the prevalent notion, that the clergy must 
be had, either by persuasion or by bribery. 
They will not need persuasion or bribery, if 
their hearts are with us ; if they are not, we 
are better without them. It is idle to suppose 
that the kingdom of heaven cannot come on 
earth, without their co-operation. It is the 
Lord's work, and it must go forward with or 
without their aid. As well might the convert- 
ed Jews have despaired of the spread of Chris- 
tianity, without the co-operation of Scribes and 

Let us keep in mind, that no abolitionism is 
of any value, which is not accompanied with 
deep, heartfelt repentance ; and that, whenever 
a minister sincerely repents of having, either 
by his apathy or his efforts, countenanced the 
fearful sin of slavery, he will need no induce- 
ment to come into our ranks ; so far from it, he 


will abhor himself in dust and ashes, for his 
past blindness and indifference to the cause of 
God's poor and oppressed : and he will regard 
it as a privilege to be enabled to do something 
in the cause of human rights. I know the min- 
istry exercise vast power ; but I rejoice in the 
belief, that the spell is broken which encircled 
them, and rendered it all but blasphemy to ex- 
pose their errors and their sins. We are be- 
ginning to understand that thev are but men, 
and that their station should not shield them 
from merited reproof. 

I have blushed for my sex when I have heard 
of their entreating ministers to attend their as- 
sociations, and open them with prayer. The 
idea is inconceivable to me, that Christian wo- 
men can be engaged in doing God's work, and 
yet cannot ask his blessing on their efforts, ex- 
cept through the lips of a man. I have known 
a whole town scoured to obtain a minister to 
open a female meeting, and their refusal to do 
so spoken of as quite a misfortune. Now, I am 
not glad that the ministers do wrong; but I am 
glad that my sisters have been sometimes com- 
pelled to act for themselves : it is exactly what 
they need to strengthen them, and prepare them 
to act independently. And to say the truth, 
there is something really ludicrous in seeing a 
minister enter the meeting, open it with prayer, 
and then take his departure. However, I only 
throw out these hints for the consideration of 
women. I believe there are solemn responsibili- 
ties resting upon us, and that in this day of 
light and knowledge, we cannot plead ignorance 
of duty. The great moral reformations now 
on the wheel are only practical Christianity ; 
and if the ministry is not prepared to labor with 


us in these righteous causes, let us press for- 
ward, and they will follow on to know the 


I have now, my dear sister, completed my 
series of letters. I am aware, they contain some 
new views ; but I believe they are based on the 
immutable truths of the Bible. All I ask for 
them is, the candid and prayerful consideration 
of Christians. If they strike at some of our 
bosom sins, our deep-rooted prejudices, our long 
cherished opinions, let us not condemn them on 
that account, but investigate them fearlessly and 
prayerfully, and not shrink from the examina- 
tion ; because, if they are true, they place 
heavy responsibilities upon women. In throw- 
ing them before the public, I have been actuat- 
ed solely by the belief, that if they are acted 
upon, they will exalt the character and enlarge 
the usefulness of my own sex, and contribute 
greatly to the happiness and virtue of the other. 
That there is a root of bitterness continually 
springing up in families and troubling the repose 
of both men and women, must be manifest to 
even a superficial observer ; and 1 believe it is the 
mistaken notion of the inequality of the sexes. 
As there is an assumption of superiority on the 
one part, which is not sanctioned by Jehovah, 
there is an incessant struggle on the other to 
rise to that degree of dignity, which God de- 
signed women to possess in common with men, 
and to maintain those rights and exercise those 
privileges which every woman's common sense, 
apart from the prejudices of education, tells her 
are inalienable ; they are a part of her moral 


nature, and can only cease when her immortal 
mind is extinguished. 

One word more. I feel that I am calling 
upon my sex to sacrifice what has been, what is 
still dear to their hearts, the adulation, the, flat- 
tery, the attentions of trifling men. I am ask- 
ing them to repel these insidious enemies when- 
ever they approach them ; to manifest by their 
conduct, that, although they value highly the 
society of pious and intelligent men, they have 
no taste for idle conversation, and for that silly 
preference which is manifested for their person- 
al accommodation, often at the expense of great 
inconvenience to their male companions. As 
an illustration of what I mean, I will state a 

I was traveling lately in a stage coach. A 
gentleman, who was also a passenger, was 
made sick by riding with his back to the horses. 
I offered to exchange seats, assuring him. it did 
not affect me at all unpleasantly; but he was 
too polite to permit a lady to run the risk of 
being discommoded. I am sure he meant to be 
very civil, but I really thought it was a foolish 
piece of civility. This kind of attention en- 1 • 
courages selfishness in woman, and is only ac- :y^ 
corded as a sort of quietus, in exchange for I 
those rights of which we are deprived. Men 
and women are equally bound to cultivate a 
spirit of accommodation ; but I exceedingly de- 
precate her being treated like a spoiled child, 
and sacrifices made to her selfishness and van- 
ity. In lieu of these flattering but injurious 
attentions, yielded to her as an inferior, as a 
mark of benevolence and courtesy, I want my 
sex to claim nothing from their brethren but 
what their brethren may justly claim from them, 


in their intercourse as Christians. I am per- 
suaded woman can can do much in this way to 
elevate her own character. And that we may 
become duly sensible of the dignity of our na- 
ture, only a little lower than the angels, and 
bring forth fruit to the glory and honor of 
Emanuel's name, is the fervent prayer of 
Thine in the bonds of womanhood, 

Sarah M. Grimke. 




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